Archive for Tibetan Book of the Dead


Posted in 2010, Controverisal Films, Experimental Films, Foreign Films, LL Soares Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on January 3, 2011 by knifefighter

(Author’s note: when I originally saw ENTER THE VOID in the fall of 2010, I didn’t review it for It was one of the rare films of the year that I saw purely for pleasure and didn’t know if it would appeal to the audience that reads the more horror-oriented reviews of CKF. However, since this movie does appear on my “Best Films of 2010” list, I figured a proper review was in order, especially since Michael Arruda reviewed the similarly-themed Clint Eastwood film, HEREAFTER a few weeks back. So here, finally, is the review.)

Film review by L.L. Soares

A few weeks back, Michael Arruda reviewed the new Clint Eastwood movie, HEREAFTER, and complained that while it was a movie supposedly about the afterlife, it didn’t give the viewer much in the way of answers. Well, Gaspar Noe’s new film, ENTER THE VOID, is the exact opposite. It’s over two hours of what happens after someone dies. And we get to see it all.

Noe, for people who aren’t familiar with his name, is the French director of the controversial, grim (and disturbing) films I STAND ALONE (1998) and IRREVERSIBLE (2002). And while both of those films are very downbeat (to say the least) with eruptions of graphic violence, ENTER THE VOID is fairly upbeat in comparison.

Our main character, Oscar (Nathaniel Brown) is a young French guy living in Tokyo, but we only catch glimpses of him, because the movie is mainly shown from his point of view. What we see is also affected by his altered consciousness. After he gets high, what we see starts to get fuzzy and weird. Light explodes into kaleidoscopes of color. Then, soon afterwards, he goes to a club where he is set up by his friend Victor (Olly Alexander) and is killed in the restroom by police in a drug raid gone bad.

The rest of the film is what happens to Oscar after he dies, and can be pretty much summed up in an conversation early on (before he’s killed) that he has with his friend Alex (Cyril Roy). Alex has lent Oscar a copy of The Tibetan Book of the Dead. As they discuss it, it gives us the plot of the movie. First you die, then you linger above your body and drift around watching the lives of those you loved. Then you have to decide how you come back – in what body you want to be reincarnated.

That’s pretty much what happens next. We continue watching from Oscar’s point of view as he lingers above his own body, then travels to various places to watch friends, and especially his sister Linda (Paz de la Huerta, who some people might recognize as Lucy, the flapper girlfriend of Steve Buscemi’s character, Nucky Johnson in the HBO show BOARDWALK EMPIRE). These events happen immediately after his death, and then he moves slowly into the future to see what happens to them in his absence.

This wouldn’t be a Noe film without some controversial scenes. One involves Linda having an abortion to get rid of the pregnancy she had from her boss at a Tokyo strip club. Another involves a sex scene shown from a very unique angle.  But ENTER THE VOID is mostly about watching the lives of others, while drifting about in a colorful haze.

There are also flashbacks to Oscar’s childhood, where we see how he and Linda were separated at an early age after their parents’ death in a violent car accident (the accident scene is quite jarring and does not lose its power even though it is shown a few times over the course of the film). They went to live with different relatives after that, which is difficult because they had been very close. It turns out that Linda has not been in Japan long before Oscar is killed. It was the first time they were able to live together again since being children, and their relationship is intense, almost bordering on incestuous. While Oscar got involved in dealing drugs, Linda got involved in stripping and prostitution. So much for their big reunion.

However, despite some of the subject matter, ENTER THE VOID is ultimately a celebration of life of and rebirth.

This movie is not going to be for everyone, but it had a real impact on me. I just love the way Gaspar Noe films his movies – from his trademark camera shots that start in a room, then pan up to the ceiling and then outside and looking down from the sky above. (He’s used these kinds of camera angles in his previous films, and he really makes them work.) To the way he tells a story. Noe is a true artist.

Needless to say, ENTER THE VOID is a very visual movie. Noe has said several times that Stanley Kubrick’s film, 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968), had a strong impact on him, especially the surreal imagery of the  “Cosmic Child” sequence at the end of the film, and you can see its influence on ENTER THE VOID.

The film has character development, but it mostly evolves gradually from what Oscar sees in his journey from death to rebirth. If this sounds at all interesting to you, you really should see it on a big screen if you can. In a theater, you can fully appreciate the journey. I’m guessing it could lose something when you watch it on your smaller television screen.

Some movies just work for you when you see them, even if they don’t work for everyone. This movie worked for me. It was easily my favorite film of 2010. I give it four and a half knives.

© Copyright 2011 by L.L. Soares

LL SOARES gives ENTER THE VOID ~ 4 and a half knives.