“Enter the Void” is Gaspar Noe’s 2009 film, starring Nathaniel Brown as Oscar and Paz de la Huerta as Linda.
From the film’s cover alone, one gets the sense that this is a going to be a psychedelic trip through a twisted arcade. Set almost completely at night in the neon jungle of Tokyo, this is definitely accurate, although one must remember who the director is: Noe is known for his often nightmarish, shock-value excess (although this wasn’t as shocking as 2002’s “Irreversible” in my opinion).
The story surrounds a drug dealer named Oscar (Brown) and his stripper sister Linda (Huerta). About fifteen minutes in, narrator Oscar (who also is tripping on DMT at this time), is shot in a club bathroom after being ratted out on a drug deal. The rest of the film surrounds Oscar’s journey in the afterlife, or rather Oscar’s ‘trip’ while his spirit is still attached to Earth.
While there are certainly stigmas attached to professions like stripping and drug-dealing, Oscar and Linda are not unlikable characters, but rather it’s the world they are surrounded by that’s loathsome. It’s also hard to attach to these characters, as minus the first fifteen minutes of the film, we hear nothing from Oscar (as his spirit can no longer interact with the living), while we only see his face once in the entire film (in the reflection of a mirror). We observe Linda quite frequently through the current observations and past memories of Oscar, but her character seems distant- almost damaged-beyond-repair- which most likely was a result of her separation from Oscar when their parents died.
The debate regarding this film is whether the majority of the film is Oscar’s DMT trip before he died, or whether this is indeed Oscar’s afterlife. Moreover, the ending makes us question whether Oscar was reincarnated, or if his last memory before he faded into the darkness was his own birth.
To determine this, one has to return to Oscar and Alex’s conversation about “The Tibetan Book of the Dead.” We see from flashbacks that Alex gave Oscar the book to read before he tripped on DMT, as DMT is the chemical thought to be released when you die. The audience gathers that Oscar merely skimmed through the book before he took the DMT, but learns the gist of it from Alex before he (Oscar) is shot. (Note that the first ‘hallucinations’ Oscar has are red in color- perhaps foreshadowing his own death).
Alex explains to Oscar that “The Tibetan Book of the Dead” essentially describes what happens to your spirit when you die. Each spirit sees a particular color when they pass, before wandering in the ‘middle’ space- i.e., the space between earth and higher realms, aka ‘bardo.’ This is where we see Oscar’s spirit for the majority of the film- diving into objects, flying through buildings, or hovering over living people. Alex says that often spirits have trouble letting go of this middle realm, which results in their spirit being reincarnated over and over until the cycle breaks. If reincarnation is to take place, supposedly the spirit can view its potential parents while they’re having sex; the spirit then enters the woman’s body and becomes that fetus.
So, in the end we see a brief shot of Oscar’s mother in labor, then a baby coming out crying after the umbilical chord is cut. This suggests either that Oscar was having another flashback, and in this flashback he saw his own birth, or it suggests maybe that Oscar was reincarnated in his mother’s womb- hence, he was reborn in some parallel universe where his mother was still alive. Before this scene, we witness Linda and Alex having sex- Oscar dives into Linda’s body and we actually see the penis ejaculate into the vagina. Hence, echoing what was said earlier, many feel Oscar chose Linda and Alex as his parents, and so was reincarnated as their baby in the end. While some feel the woman in labor is undoubtedly Oscar’s mother and not Linda, one shouldn’t cancel out it being Linda, as a recurring theme in the movie is Oscar and Linda’s pact to never leave each other. In addition, the image of the woman is blurry at best, and who knows, maybe Oscar was reincarnated to Linda but briefly saw the image of his former birth mother through his newborn eyes.
Another element of this debate that ties everything together is what exactly the ‘void’ is. Oscar’s death takes place when he enters the club called ‘The Void,’ so one might assume the void is death itself, or rather, the unknown which we can only witness in death. Seen from this perspective, the ending could be interpreted as Oscar having the final flashback of his own birth before his actual death- hence, the void is the unknown space between life and death before we fade into the blackness or nothingness of death. From a different angle, if one does feel that Oscar is reincarnated as the baby we see in the conclusion, then the void is life itself- life is filled with pain and sorrow, life is empty, life is nothing.
Still, there are those that feel the entire movie was Oscar’s enhanced DMT trip after he was shot, and thus, the film can be viewed as a testament to what the spirit remembers, witnesses and experiences before the physical body goes in the grave.
“Enter the Void” is a uniquely shot work of art, encapsulating perfectly the alienation and sorrow of life, while also portraying a debatable outlook on the afterlife.