Sunday, April 22, 2012

"Enter the Void": French-Japanese film combines "Inception" with "2001" with afterlife journey

My own perception of physics, particularly relevant as I grow more elderly, is that my own consciousness can’t simply disappear when I pass.  Something has to happen with it.  In my own “Do Ask Do Tell” screenplay, I posit the idea that some of us get to meet angels (in a special outpost elsewhere in the Solar System) and a change to become part of their community and sometimes experience temporary reincarnations in their bodies, or perhaps become para-messengers ourselves; otherwise “join the Group Mind” forever.  To me it makes sense that it could work that way.

I hoped I would find some theology in the French-Japanese film by Gaspar Noe, “Enter the Void” (IFC, released at the end of 2010), a very lengthy trip (two hours and forty minutes), that ultimately mixes the Star-Child imagery from “2001” with the womb.  The story, however, gives us little rooting interest, or leaves us wanting to find more in the “hero”, Oscar (Richmond VA-born Nathaniel Brown  -- maybe a future with Virginian Richard Kelly?).  Oscar is pretty to “look at”, and one of the annoying mannerisms of his visions is that we always see him just from the backside.

I’m getting ahead of myself.  Living in neon-colorful Tokyo with his sister Linda (Paz de la Heurta), he pretty much mirrors Fassbinder’s character in “Shame”, perhaps, although just  a kid.  He picks the “wrong” career, dealing, which may be as legitimate as flipping real estate.  His friend Alex (Cyril Roy) tries to get him to take “The Tibetan Book of the Dead” seriously.  He needs to, after going to a lap-dance and flagpole bar called “The Void” (it’s mostly straight, but maybe not completely, and seems to run continuous circuit parties).  He winds up in a toilet (about a half hour into the long film), really grungy (like in the UK downer “Trainspotting”, which I did not enjoy), and police come to apprehend him. When he refuses to come out, they shoot him.

The remaining journeys are in two parts.  He starts his out-of-body experience by reliving his life, mostly in chronological sequence.  That’s one way to embed a character’s back story, with a lot of interesting early life scenes.  Again, we just see his back.  He is led back to the toilet and his impending death, so he needs to try something in the spirit world. The film, about an hour gone, enters “Part 2” (or maybe 3).   An intricate story about Linda and Alex follows, and it doesn’t really inspire the viewer’s rooting interest. Oscar enters Linda’s “identity” (sort of like my idea, above), but short circuits as he winds up in the morgue.  The movie starts becoming like “Inception”, as Alex has to convince Oscar he is living in a dream.  In a movie like this, the other "supervising" characters need, with their own story, to establish an "objective" to tell the protagonist (and the viewer) where we're all going; and it doesn't seem like they pull it off.  (Compare this to "Astral City", Nov. 7, 2011, this blog.)

Oscar eventually winds up on a penultimate trip, in an airplane experiencing breastfeeding (and then seeing the people turn bloody, as if the plane crashed), and then in a hospital, after going through curved corridors (like in my screenplay), intermittently flying about Tokyo, which starts to look like a Lego toy city. Finally, he travels the process (of intercourse) into Linda’s womb, and sees conception.  He then (however incestuous this all sounds) thinks he is experiencing his own birth, or perhaps rebirth.  It’s not clear what future he has in all this confusion, except maybe his soul will relive an endless loop through his life and back.

The film is definitely “for adults” but certainly has a point for its explicitness.  It was played at Cannes, Toronto, and Sundance.  The official site is here. Curiously, the opening credits are run very quickly, and there are no closing credits.  The film is shot 2.35:1, but the intention blurring of some images (for plot reasons) lessons the potential visual impact of the film, when compared to more famous films in the sci-fi genre.

The film has no relation to the 2003 film "Touching the Void", by Kevin Macdonald (IFC), about  a mountain climb in the Andes in Peru, which I saw at a suburban multiplex in VA in 2004.

Update: Aug. 31, 2015

Here's a link where Morgan Freeman explains the "quantum tubule" idea of consciousness behind this film. 

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