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Looking Down: Gaspar Noé’s “Enter the Void”

Looking Down: Gaspar Noé's "Enter the Void"

Like a guttersnipe’s update of Thornton Wilder’s 1938 play Our Town, Gaspar Noé’s Enter the Void concerns the post-death consciousness of a young person taken too soon, watching from the wings as life goes on heedlessly below. In both cases, such spiritual lingering incites frustration, regret, loneliness. Like Our Town’s Emily Webb, ripped from the universe after complications from childbirth, Enter the Void’s cipher protagonist, American drug dealer Oscar, shot to death by police in a slimy Tokyo bar bathroom during a bust gone bad, witnesses a world bedeviled by progress (industrialization for Wilder, globalization for Noé) and compromised by pain but which is essentially worth living in. Ultimately, Emily will return to Earth for one day, to relive her twelfth birthday, and Oscar will be reborn; difficult but positive journeys to transcendence both, cathartic explorations of death that finally come out on the side of the living.

Why bother comparing one of American theater’s most naggingly durable standbys and oft trotted-out arbiters of traditional moral standards, set in scrubbed rural New England Everytown U.S.A., to the latest provocation by pot-stirrer Gaspar Noé, located in a decadent twenty-first century metropolis awash in neon and urine? Posing their similarities might be useful in the way that it emphasizes the latter as little more than a shockingly traditional moralizing fable. True, Wilder’s tale of the here-and-beyond doesn’t climax with a close-to-literal audience fucking (front-row viewers of Void might want to bring raincoats), but other commonalities are revealing . . . Read Michael Koresky’s review of Enter the Void.

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