Enter the Void is the new film by enfant terrible, Gaspar Noe, who gave us the controversial Irreversible, the movie known for people walking out due to a graphic rape scene and a man’s face being smashed in by a fire extinguisher. The screenplay, by Noe and Lucile Hadzihalilovic, is based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead, one of the more unusual sources for a story, perhaps only equaling John Cameron Mitchell’s adaption of Hedwig and the Angry Inch from one of Aristotle’s dialogues. In Enter the Void, a drug dealer is shot by the police, leaves his body and travels Tokyo witnessing various situations involving his friends, while also having flashbacks to his younger years, in the end entering a sperm at the moment of consummation so that he can be reincarnated. Gaspar Noe is ambitious in his use of technique. In Irreversible, he told his story in reverse chronological order divided into a series of scenes, each made up of one long shot that was as long as a reel of film. Here, Noe combines the point of view technique used by Robert Montgomery in his film noir The Lady in the Lake, in which everything is seen as the lead character sees it, the hero himself never appearing unless a mirror is present (the same idea was also used in parts of the films Dark Passage and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly). Noe combines this approach with the long shot style Alfred Hitchcock used in Rope, in which the camera never cuts until it focuses on a solid black object so the audience theoretically can’t tell there’s been an edit with the whole film looking as if it’s one long shot. Add to that a style that reminded me of the time I was in college in which film groups would show movies that would especially appeal to people who had partaken of mind altering substances before attending (like Busby Berkeley’s The Gang’s All Here), and you have a lot going on. One thing in Noe’s favor is that he’s not as slavish to the POV technique as Montgomery was; Montgomery used it all the way through the film, which sounds great and innovative, until you actually see it whereupon it quickly becomes tiresome and clunky and is never as convincing as you think it might be. Noe really only uses this idea for about a third of the movie; after that, it all becomes an out of body experience, which, though the action is still seen strictly speaking from the hero’s point of view, it no longer seems like it, instead feeling much closer to a camera’s usual omniscient viewpoint. At the same time, Noe does take it all a step further and actually has the character blinking. He also takes the Hitchcock technique further by making the editing seamless with almost no hesitation or pausing on the camera’s part (at times, this is extremely dazzling as the hero flies over Tokyo, entering and exiting buildings, people, an airplane, and finally that uterus where we watch a penis thrusting and having an orgasm). But as impressive as the film is at times, it quickly loses steam as the technique takes over and become more important than the story telling. The issue for me is that the plot really isn’t that complicated; in fact, it’s fairly straight forward. But in spite of that, it takes Noe two hours and forty three minutes to tell it and the story line really can’t sustain it. The length is due to the above mentioned stylistic flourishes, which are interesting at first, but also can’t be sustained in and of themselves for the more than two hours running time. Add to that an actor in the lead, newcomer Nathaniel Brown, who says every line with a flat, deadly dullness, and the whole thing finally collapses under its own stylistic weight. I’m also not sure what to make of the suggested incestuous feelings the hero has for his sister, to the extent that it’s her uterus he enters and her baby he reincarnates as; I’m not sure, because it seems to be the only aspect of the film Noe seems to not fully commit to (with the frankness of the rest of the film, one wonders what held him back). In the end, I suspect this could have been a fascinating and more emotionally involving experience if it had clocked in under the two hour mark. And one has to admit the ambition and success of much of the technical aspects of the film; it is an incredibly impressive achievement at times. But not as engaging as I needed it to be.