However, to take the easy option and simply accept either Noé’s detractors or out-of-context descriptions of scenes from his films at face value is to do a huge disservice to a truly fascinating director. One of the keys to understanding Noé’s approach is provided by the work of his father, the artist and intellectual Luis Felipe Noé, part of the 1960s Buenos Aires Otra Figuración movement. Hallmarks of the movement included the use of vivid colours, political content and an extreme sense of kinesis, attributes Noé fils has incorporated into his own work. Also telling is a comment attributed to Noé pére: “I believe in chaos as a value.”
There is certainly also an element of the professional provocateur to Gaspar Noé; he has never denied his attempts at manipulating audience emotion, whether it be a thirty second warning to audiences to leave the cinema in fear of what is about to happen (Seul contre tous), or sound design incorporating frequencies guaranteed to cause uneasy discomfort in the viewer (Irréversible), but this is best seen as following in the tradition of the showmanship and sly playfulness of Hitchcock, while his softly-spoken insistence on being ‘normal’ is positively Lynchian. The ostentatious gimmickry and overtly confrontational nature of his previous work gives rise to parallels with films such as Michael Haneke’s Funny Games (1997), but while Haneke is lauded for his intellectual austerity, Noé is unfairly demonised. Each of Noé’s films has been a huge leap forward in style, tone and content, and with Enter the Void he has created an unforgettable masterpiece — a film that’s remarkable in its ambition, scope, style and beauty.
Enter the Void was first shown in a rough cut at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival, with a length of 163 minutes. Following almost a year of post-production and extensive editing, including the excision of a complete reel, the version showing at the IFI has a running time of 137 minutes.
View the trailer here.