Wednesday 6 October 2010

Enter the Void (Gaspar Noé, France | Germany | Italy, 2009)

Like a storm, raging through the synapses of the brain. Like a cloud, millions of star systems orbiting around a galactic central axis. A dispersive amorphous map of smoke pulsates: purples morph into orange morph into white morph into red. Like an eye – a big, bloodshot eye – staring down at you,
looking into your skull, gazing into your mind. Like jellyfish swarming in the night sea, thousands of teeming tentacles in the invisible movement of the water. Like a toy kaleidoscope, turning the lenses under the sheets when everyone else is asleep, when you were a child. Like the centre of a flower, the stigma effervescent, open; the stamen vibrating, reaching out. Like being inside the still, quiet centre of a violent hurricane. Like red blood exploding in slow motion out of the dark hole of a wound. Like blood diffusing into water.

Enter the Void has some of the most potent cinematic images ever created – beginning with Oscar’s trip-out with a toot on a wee pipe of DMT (Dimethyltryptamine): a six minute real-time odyssey of abstract shapes overwhelming a willing consciousness. This pattern image – which is at the centre of the film’s opening sequence – is a beautiful expression of an intensive state: a formless, dispersive cinematic duration. Oscar has seen his sister, Linda, out of the Tokyo apartment where they both live and is awaiting the arrival of Alex, his friend. Director Gasper Noé utilises the point-of-view shot, aligning camera perception with the perception of the character – even inserting a black frame every few seconds mimicking the blinking of Oscar’s eyes. Similarly, the speech and thoughts of Oscar are rendered in the same blank voice-over, sometimes making the status of speech and thought indeterminate. Noé will sustain this method of shooting Oscar both before and after the DMT trip, when Alex will arrive and they will walk the streets of Tokyo toward the club where Victor is waiting for a drug deal. The only exception to this rule will be the DMT trip sequence, which begins and ends by cutting in with blurred staccato images of Oscar lying on his unkempt bed, zoned out. An out of body experience, a body looking at itself from a disjunctive position, a hallucination, a fantasy. After the trip, after the stroll through Tokyo to the club and Victor, Oscar will be shot by the police in the toilet of The Void. As he dies – his consciousness appears to leave his body, the camera gazes down upon Oscar, curled up in shit, piss and pills, his blood seeping across the broken tiles. Accordingly, the DMT trip will become the impetus for the main section of the film. An out of body experience – Oscar traversing the past, present and future. A cavalcade of images from Oscar’s past, the present where Linda, Alex, and Victor live through the aftermath of Oscar’s passing, and various possible futures. Past, present and future interweave to create a fluid mosaic, fragments from the past, present and future, mental landscapes and disparate bodies – from the point-of-view of the dead Oscar. Finally, in a short coda – Oscar is reborn.

Enter the Void is an exceptional cinematic event: a time-image – which through its extreme cinematic processes can be said to explore in particularly productive circumstances what Deleuze names hyalosigns, chronosigns, and noosigns. Time-image fragments, narrations and narratives. In so doing, the film is an exemplary lectosign: an image which must and can only be interpreted, an image which is in itself an interpretation...

To read the full exploration of Enter the Void through the Deleuze's sign of the 'lectosign,' see Deleuze's Cinema Books: Three Introductions to the Taxonomy of Images


  1. Fantastic analysis, I must say. Haven't seen the film yet, but your writings force me to watch it sooner than later. I really like how you analysed the film in terms of the time-image. You make clear use of the different signs and have elaborated nicely on the focus on the noosign/-sphere. Enlightening.

  2. Thanks Noyster, that is very kind of you. I hope you enjoy Enter the Void when it gets to your territory... if you want, when you have seen the film let me know what you think...

  3. Charles Mudede (writer on Police Beat and Zoo) has a pretty good take on the film.

    I haven't seen it, but I've been interested in reading films in terms of 'pataphysics as of late; do you think this would lend itself? It seems from the moment the film comes back from the white-out and inhabits the brother's ghost we are beyond metaphor.

    (ps. this is Dan who was in your first year Narrative module, friend of S)

  4. Hi Dan... good to hear from you... yeah, I checked out the The Stranger article... I liked that a lot, he made some great connections, still thinking about the Hegel/Antigone link... not entirely sure that works cos Hegel's point was Antigone was cuaght between two ethical positions, the law and the family in respect of burying her brother's body.

    As for 'pataphysics... I don't know enough about this. There is early Buadrillard of course. Tho I hear some worrying statements, such as it can be considered a religion! However, not sure if that comes from its detractors or is an ironic joke. So, in short, be very happy to read what you write on the subject.

    And yes... going beyond metaphor... I guess this is the 'pataphor. Interestingly, Deleuze doesnt believe even metaphors exist. Rather, there are just resonances between concepts (philosophy), functions (science) and sensations (art) and thier components/functives/percepts and affects.

    Good luck with that. Hope you enjoy the movie and write something too... post the link on here if you do so I can read it!

    Take it easy...


  5. I guess I understand that you're trying to take what you feel is the most applicable strand of Deleuze's thought in approaching this film, but, on the other hand, since there are so few other written pieces out there that display even the most basic amount of thought and reflection (I've browsed many - MANY) I was sorely disappointed when you so clearly and thoughtfully approached a certain aspect of the film and not every other aspect. Is this too much to ask for? Absolutely. Do I ask anyway? I can't help myself. You can just ignore me. I have a rather rudimentary understanding of Deleuze (if any understanding at all), but your insights are both clear and insightful, and for that I thank you immensely.

    I will admit that I guessed from context that he was reincarnated as his sister's baby, but I read that Noé had filmed two versions and chosen the one with the mother and, on reflecting, my memory (referring to the recurring memory of breast feeding from a first-person perspective) seemed to validate this claim (and he seems to toy with the media, so validation is certainly necessary). I wish I had experienced a nipple-driven epiphany, but this is not the case. Someday, I can only hope. You and I both need to pay more attention to nipples, it seems. However, with the knowledge that it is the mother comes the possibility that he is actually reborn in his sister's body, thereby solidifying the promise that they made to stay together forever in a strange, Being John Malkovich sort of way. I'm not sure that's what is implied, but the possibility is not excluded, and I kind of think it's an amazing and creepy possibility in all the right ways.

    Speaking of that scene, it also triggered another point of thought - that the end, with a white room from a baby's perspective facing its mother's spherical (perhaps elliptical - let's not get technical!) breast, was a lot like the end of 2001 (referenced in the television screens in The Void just before the drug bust) with a third person view of the baby in the blackness of space facing the spherical earth. Just before that we have a facsimile of an earthly apartment, with the surrealist touch of a glowing white floor and an old man laying in bed. In Noe's film we have a facsimile of a hotel, with the surrealist touch of neon everywhere and the film's cast in different rooms doing something a little more active in various beds and elevators. Going back again in 2001 there is a scene of a multicolored light show 'trip' through space, whereas the preceding scene in Noé's film there is a trip through the skies and streets of Tokyo. To me, Noé is clearly reinterpreting the end of 2001, if not the entirety of the film, in a more earthbound, terrestrial sense. He replaces the vaccuum of space for the neon lit streets of Tokyo, the black monoliths of our solar system and Beyond the Infinite for the Tibetan Book of the Dead (replete with its psychadelic cover), and the evolution of Man for the interpersonal reverberations of the actions of a simple man. I'm with you on this possibility of the Book of the Dead: 'this may all be a ruse'. Certainly Kubrick's monoliths are all a ruse, which is not to use it in a pejorative sense. If we were looking for those 'pragmatic interpretations' which we don't have and apparently don't need for 2001 but which people seem to clamor for over Enter the Void we could say that his recent encounter with the Book of the Dead influences his dreams and... that's the film. I don't find it necessary, and it doesn't seem you do, either.

    So, in conclusion, I digress. I'm not sure how much this digression interests you in the context of this application of Deleuze's thought to the film, but here it is nonetheless. Enjoy!

  6. JeanRZEJ:
    'Is this too much to ask for? Absolutely. Do I ask anyway? I can't help myself.'

    Dedicated to you...

    Thank you for your digressions... digressions are what interest me most...

  7. Absolutely fantastic review. Need to brush up on my Deleuze to get to grips with the analysis but excellent nonetheless!