Gaspar Noé’s third feature-length film, Enter the Void, follows the success of his previous films, I Stand Alone and Irréversible, which were known for their provocative storylines and distinctive camera movements. In Enter the Void, Noé opted to explore more universal themes. The narrative of the film portrays death, reincarnation, and rebirth through the eyes of a drug dealer, while taking full advantage of the colorful yet chaotic environment of Tokyo, which remains in the background. Let’s take a closer look at how Noé uses cinematography, mise-en-scène, sound, and editing techniques to enhance the film’s narrative.
The following section of the article contains spoilers for readers who have not seen the film.
From the opening scene to Oscar’s death, the film utilizes the “point-of-view shot” technique, where the audience views events from the perspective of the protagonist, Oscar. The viewer experiences the “drug trip” along with him. Noé, who has admitted to experimenting with drugs in his youth, deliberately chose this technique. He aims to immerse the audience in this experience and depict what a person under the influence of drugs sees, hears, and thinks during that state.
In these scenes, colors and sounds become sharper, and the camera focus becomes blurry. Noé constantly rotates the camera 360 degrees to create the feeling of intoxication. Furthermore, the film contains several long takes, some lasting up to ten minutes. These uninterrupted shots align the character’s perception of time with the audience’s perception, allowing them to become more immersed in the story. This technique may make the viewer feel like a character in a video game set in Tokyo.
After Oscar’s death, the camera switches from his point of view to an aerial view. However, as mentioned in “The Book of the Dead,” Oscar’s soul separates from his body and begins to fly over Tokyo. Even though the events continue to be seen from the protagonist’s perspective, the camera remains in an aerial view. Alex says, “Death is the ultimate trip.” Noé attempts to depict what might happen after death through Oscar’s perspective, inviting the audience to identify with him and experience this journey with him. We can say that Oscar becomes the camera itself. The camera angles and shots used throughout the film facilitate empathy with Oscar and reinforce the film’s intention.
In the second half of the film, we revisit the beginning of the story and watch events again. However, this time, the camera follows Oscar from an outsider’s perspective. The audience, who previously identified with Oscar through the point-of-view shot, is now invited to watch the same events from the outside by following him.
“Mise-en-scène” is a term used in the film industry to describe the arrangement of visual elements within a film. In “Enter the Void,” this includes the use of setting, lighting, and decoration, which are critical components of the film’s overall impact. The atmosphere of Tokyo’s nights, dark yet illuminated by neon lights that prevent complete darkness, is a significant aspect of the film’s dramatic structure. The miniature Tokyo model created by Alex’s roommate also plays a crucial role in the film’s progression. The city of Tokyo is portrayed as a vibrant and never-ending metropolis, with neon signs and lights adorning every corner of the city.
The “Enter” sign on Oscar’s balcony, followed by the name of the bar where he is shot being “Void,” is symbolic of his descent into nothingness after entering the void. Tokyo’s vitality is contrasted with Oscar’s life, which comes to an end after falling into the void.
One notable setting is the park where Oscar and Linda spend time in the sunshine. However, we are uncertain whether the scenes depicting their conversations in this location are flashbacks or real-time events. The park is presented as a sanctuary, a place where Oscar can escape from the city and experience a sense of peace. The most peaceful and bright moments in the film are set in this park.
“Enter the Void” utilizes mise-en-scène to convey Tokyo’s vibrancy and liveliness, as well as Oscar’s descent into nothingness. The use of contrasting settings, lighting, and decoration provides visual interest and contributes to the film’s overall impact. The park setting serves as a refuge from the city’s chaos and represents an ideal world for Oscar, making it a crucial component of the film’s mise-en-scène.
Lighting and Colors
The director, Gaspar Noé, makes use of artificial lighting throughout the film, opting to use the color red as a dominant motif in both the lighting and filtering. Additionally, the clothing worn by Oscar’s sister, Linda, features the colors yellow and red, which serve as symbols of her innocence and maturity, respectively.
Noé’s use of color and lighting is particularly effective in conveying the film’s underlying themes. The color yellow is used to represent Linda’s childhood innocence and her unshakeable bond with her brother Oscar, while the color red represents her coming-of-age and the two contrasting sides of her character.
The film’s exploration of death and the afterlife is further enhanced by the relationship between Oscar and his mother Susie. Their interactions raise several psychoanalytical questions, particularly with regards to Oscar’s attempts to reconnect with his deceased mother through Susie. The similarities in the clothing worn by Susie and Oscar’s mother, as well as the dominant use of red in their clothing, further highlight this connection.
Enter the Void also explores the complex relationships between family members, particularly with regards to sexuality. Oscar’s sexuality is initially defined by a childhood memory of his parents’ intimate moment, which he later redirects towards his mother and sister. This theme is explored in depth throughout the film, with the use of color and lighting serving to underscore the film’s underlying themes.
Items and Symbolization
The movie’s use of iconic objects and symbols is an essential aspect of its storytelling. One such object is Linda’s teddy bear, which she has carried with her since childhood. The bear comes to symbolize Oscar at one point in the film, as Linda clings to it as a way to keep her brother close to her even after his death. The complex relationship between Oscar and Linda is depicted in a subtle yet compelling way, with hints of sexual tension between them.
Director Gaspar Noé touches on taboo subjects such as incest and the psychological bond between family members who have no one else in their lives. The film’s exploration of these themes is done in a nuanced and thought-provoking way, adding depth to the characters and their relationships.
Another important object in the film is the “Tibetan Book of the Dead,” which provides insight into the afterlife and reincarnation. Oscar never gets the chance to read the book before his death, but he discusses it with his friend Alex while under the influence of drugs. This conversation sets the stage for the rest of the film, as the book passes from Alex to Oscar to Linda, ultimately becoming a powerful symbol of their interconnectedness.
The use of objects and symbols in “Enter the Void” is a testament to Noé’s masterful storytelling. These elements add layers of meaning to the film and help to create a sense of unity between the characters and their experiences. As the story unfolds, the audience is taken on a haunting and mesmerizing journey through life, death, and rebirth, leaving a lasting impression on the viewer.
The film’s sound world is also quite rich, with several music pieces that add to the atmosphere. The techno music, which Noé is fond of, can be heard in the club and bar scenes, as seen in his previous film “Climax.” However, the director intentionally placed specific music in certain scenes, which the audience hears but the characters do not. For instance, during the Luna Park scene between Oscar and Linda, Della Derbishire’s Air piece creates a fitting and dramatic flow for the scene. It has soft tones with tense undertones that capture the strong but unsettled emotions between the characters.
“Enter the Void” presents a unique perspective on death, accompanied by a captivating sound world that enhances the film’s atmosphere. The use of music in specific scenes highlights the director’s deliberate attention to detail and how it contributes to the film’s overall experience.
Upon examining the film’s narrative structure, it becomes apparent that flashbacks play a significant role in Enter the Void. Noé effectively conveys Oscar’s constant connection between the present and the past, directing his relationship with his sister through childhood memories. Through these transitions, the audience sees how Oscar’s perspective on Linda constantly shifts, moving from his present-day position to his childhood position. Noé utilizes temporal and spatial manipulations, along with flashbacks, to highlight the important role that the past plays in Oscar’s psychology.
Another crucial aspect of the film is the titular command “Enter the Void,” which we sense is a directive that creates a roadmap for Oscar. Whenever he wishes to change locations, he accomplishes it by entering into a void in his immediate surroundings. These voids may take the form of a hole, a vacuum, or even beams of light emanating from a lamp in a room. During these transitions, the spiritual journey that Oscar undergoes is conveyed to the audience through various visual effects. The final void that Oscar enters is his sister’s womb.
After Linda becomes involved with Alex, Oscar enters his sister’s womb and is reborn in the form of Linda’s child. This event satisfies Oscar’s desire to find the first sexual feelings he had for Linda and to regain his lost mother, who had become fused with his sister. Thus, re-incarnation is complete for Oscar.
Many of the unique and compelling elements that make Enter the Void such an unusual film are the signatures of Noé himself. The way he explores the effects of drugs on the human brain, the questioning of the concept of family, and the perspectives he brings to life and death concepts are all explored through the innovative use of camera work, light, and color. Enter the Void is a film with so many psychological codes and details that it deserves to be discussed at length. Examining Noé’s films closely reveals the intricate details he employs, and this further solidifies Enter the Void’s significant place in Noé’s filmography.
Last modified: May 13, 2023