Is the afterlife inane? and other questions about Gaspar Noe's Enter the Void
1) With Enter the Void, did writer/director Gaspar Noe intend to make the afterlife inane? After 20-year old Oscar dies when a drug deal goes bad early in the movie, Oscar's spirit (?) point of view (?) drifts about, then floats over the Tokyo cityscape (usually at roughly ceiling level) with invisible wipe cuts as he moves through walls (somewhat like the way Orson Welles used wipe cuts as the camera rose above the opera scene in Citizen Kane). Oscar's spirit also gravitates towards lights like a moth, views himself dead on the bathroom floor, revisits various memories of his brief life, and hangs around his sister, friends, dealers, and former lovers, all of whom are unaware of his presence. Even though the film is beautifully, mesmerizingly photographed, the ghostly hovering gets tiresome after awhile, so Noe jazzes up this somnambulistic tour with strip bars, police interrogations, streaming 3-D tendrilly DMT hallucinations, and voyeuristic visits to a Love Hotel. After much drifting about, Oscar's ghost (?) casts around for a possible reincarnation. What else does he (it?) have to do?
2) In an interview with Noe, James Marsh describes the characters of Enter the Void as "pretty irresponsible," and I agree. Oscar deals drugs in part because a regular job does not appeal to him. When he raises enough money to fly his sister Linda over from the States, he introduces her to shady characters who eventually hire her as a stripper. Given his childhood blood vow to always be with her, couldn't he have thought of something else for her to do? Since Oscar and Linda are so blank, affectless, and passive, it's hard to get worked up over their plight, especially after Oscar's death.
3) How does Enter the Void concern The Tibetan Book of the Dead (which frequently shows up in the movie)? In an interview, Noe makes it clear that he does not believe in an afterlife, although his movie definitely plays with received ideas about just that. As he says:
"I read books on reincarnation and many books about out-of-body experiences. Actually, the movie is not so much about reincarnation. It's more about someone who gets shot while on acid and DMT [Dimethyltryptamine], and trips out about his own death and dreams about his soul escaping from his flesh, because he wants to keep this promise to his sister that he'll never leave her, even after death.I don't believe in life after death. But I still enjoyed the idea of doing a movie that would portray that collective dream, that collective need. Like flying saucers are a collective need for people who need to believe in flying saucers. You don't need to believe in flying saucers to do a movie about Martians or flying saucers.You just say, well, it's in literature and books and people need to believe there's something after [death] because otherwise life is too short. It's better to tell people that, don't worry, life is short but you get to have a second chance. You can survive and always rearrange things that happened in your lifetime."
So, in essence, Noe provides the viewer with a nonbeliever's vision of the afterlife. That still begs the question: what's the point of being a ghost? Do the dead suffer from existential angst? Do they then get reincarnated out of boredom?
4) How much does Noe deliberately provoke the viewer, and why? In one interview, Noe appears tickled by the negative attention:
"Some people say, `This should have lasted five minutes. Five minutes was enough.' Or in the newspaper that my father read in Argentina, he was offended because the journalist said, `This was the worst movie ever shown in the Cannes Festival. Everybody agrees, at the Palais, in the streets, in the bar. It’s the worst movie.' I say, `Dad, it’s good news. The worst ever—you realize what the competition is to get the worst movie ever?'”
5) Did Noe include all of the titillating provocations to make up for the weaknesses of Enter the Void's story and characterization? In one scene, Oscar's ghost dives into an aborted fetus lying on a tray. While such a fearless point of view has its aesthetic interest, the ultimate effect is that everything in Enter the Void's neon soup attains the same flat, jaded (one can say deadened) anesthetized level.
6) How much does Enter the Void really mean Join Me in My Aimless Nihilistic Stupor?