Drugs influence everyone in different ways. In some aspects, cinema is very similar, as no two people will be affected in identical manners. What will shock one into submission, will fall on deaf ears and be redundant on another. Likewise, there are people who find drug-taking acceptable behaviour, and others who don't. And so too, this film will divide its audience into those who see genius in its lengthy duration, and those who think this is cinematic pap.

The latest film from French enfant terrible Gaspar Noe, responsible for a nine-minute rape scene in IRREVERSIBLE, and horse-slaughter and consumption in CARNE and SEUL CONTRE TOUS (aka I STAND ALONE), arrives fresh from Cannes, along with as much baggage as his previous works. Constantly being edited right up until a few weeks ago, the film has appeared in at least four differing versions:

- The Cannes Edit (162 minutes, minus any opening or closing credits)

- A secondary festival edit (approximately 160m, with some alterations, alternate CGI effects, and titles)

- The 160m Director's Cut, further edits to the previous version, that is to be considered the full and final version, and

- The 135m European Theatrical Cut, with a "Reel 7" removed, purely for timing purposes. (Japan and some parts of the US are seeing the 160m Director's Cut.)

It is the final version that is under discussion here.

The story loosely follows Oscar (Nathaniel Brown) and his younger sister, Linda (Paz De La Huerta). After their parents are killed in a horrendous car-crash, the siblings are separated at a young age, despite having made a blood-pact to never be split-up. After turmoil in her life, Linda goes to work as a hostess in a Tokyo "Love Hotel" - a place where Japanese businessmen pay Western women, for their "company". Oscar, though, gets into drugs, and becomes a low-rent drug dealer. After being set-up by a friend, he is unwittingly murdered by Tokyo police, in a drugs bust at a nightclub - The Void. As he dies and his consciousness begins to falter, he refuses to depart the real world and his spirit ascends into the sky, wandering and passing through Tokyo's neon-lit backstreets and highways. The film then follows Linda's attempts at coping with being truly alone for the first time in her life, without Oscar for emotional support.

The plot is not the usual kind of experiment you might expect from Noe, whose past works have covered abstract themes of redemption and revenge. Even IRREVERSIBLE attempted a new spin on these well-worn subjects, by playing the entire story in reverse, quite literally. Here, however, you have a work that expects a lot from its audience, but delivers very little.

Actually, I lie.

It does deliver an emotional ride, but not one that ninety-nice-percent of people are going to want to be a part of. The only emotions I took away from ENTER THE VOID, were ones of worthlessness, deep depression and suicide! This film is not a rollercoaster ride, but one bloody long endurance test. It saps everything out of you, and leaves you feeling like you have been cinematically raped! In fact, Noe pretty much advocates and endorses this response, as towards the final few minutes of the movie, we are shown what it looks like when a man penetrates a woman during intercourse, and the camera shows us his penis quite literally thrusting away inside of her vaginal cavity, before it explodes in orgasmic delight, ejaculating all over the cinema screen! We then follow the sperm as they make way to an egg, and potentially, break through the egg's wall, and begin to fertilize a new life: the concept of conception itself!

On top of this, we endure mumbled and incoherent dialogue; several extended scenes of drug hallucinations, which were essentially pretty-looking (and pretty vacuous) CGI patterns; endless scenes of quiet moments, book-ended by a slam-bang shock, as if intended to keep its audience awake; and - it wouldn't be a Noe film without it - lots, and lots of extremely intensive strobe-lighting effects - some of the most unnecessary that I've ever seen, and surely designed to test even the most hardened of hypersensitive audience members to their absolute limits.

With that all said-and-done, I'm sure you're all eager to know if there was a point to any of this? Is the film well written, cleverly acted, and does it entertain or make a pertinent point about a thorny subject?

Nope, nada, not one fucking iota!

This seems to be a film of total self-indulgence by Monsieur Noe: a total wankathon, designed to show him to be cleverer and better than any of us mere cinema-attending mortals; to make us feel inferior for not getting him as the artiste he sees himself as. A film that says nothing, does nothing, goes nowhere, and then repeats it all over for 135 very, very long minutes. There are points in the film where you will not be able to stop yourself from looking at your watch or your mobile phone. No matter how badly every part of your being tells you to not do this, in case you miss a vital part of the film, you will be forced to look at a clock face, somewhere, and you will realise at that point in time, how little of the film you have endured, and how much more you still have to sit through! It will be at this stage, you will then begin to feel like the film has squeezed the joy out of your entire life, and your brain will go on to question your existence: why am I here? What is the purpose of my life? Am I of value to anyone? Is the way I live valuable or worthwhile?

As soon as this happens, you will then begin to feel despondent. That despondence will turn into depression. A few moments later, and having looked back at the screen to try to rid yourself of such miserable thoughts, you'll be craving to exit the cinema; to see sunlight, witness joy just once more.

But no! It shall not be! You'll try to concentrate on the film, and what you've missed, whilst your mind wandered. And then that creeping sense of not caring any more about the film will start to ooze through your body. It will flow through you, just as your blood does. By now, you'll probably be hating everything about your life. You will be craving to slit your wrists, because this film has quite literally brought you to the darkest place you have ever encountered - one that you may struggle to crawl back from.

I went through all of these miserable experiences, as I sat through ENTER THE VOID, and I came out feeling like I was the most worthless, pathetic and scuzziest person on the planet. I really did feel like topping myself at the end of the film, because of the insidious atmosphere it had created deep within my being.

So, was there anything remotely of any interest and enjoyment that could be taken away, and recalled, from this film? Yes, there was. A sequence that will work better on DVD, where you will be able to pause, examine and cogitate on every single, deliriously delicious moment It lasts maybe 45 seconds, but so much is crammed into this one sequence, it will be remembered for far longer than the other 134m and 15s!

The opening title sequence, is incredible! It's so utterly mind-blowing, that it is the single saving grace of the entire work. The titles depict the entire cast and crew in numerous fonts and stylised graphics, that they are, in essence, the end-credits of the movie. (The actual end-credits display the words "Enter", "the", and "void", before cutting to black, and that's it!) You will have endless fun spotting all of the little gimmicks, jokes, subtle acknowledgements to other "title" styles and logos, than the rest of the film combined. They are a masterpiece of cinema, in and of themselves! A gem I could endlessly re-watch. Unfortunately, just as they begin to roll and you realise how magnificent they all are, the sudden appearance and disappearance of each one will frustrate the crap out of you! Each one is on-screen for fractions of a second. At an educated guess, approximately eight frames each - quite literally a case of "blink and you'll miss them"! You bastard, Noe! You utter, bastard!

Whatever is in the missing "Reel 7" mentioned at the start of this review, is unlikely to salvage this film, or even redeem it into a mediocre work. And extending it from the bloated length of 135 minutes into 160, is likely to send even those who felt rewarded by this work, spiralling into the deep-end of their tolerance levels. This could well be the film that turns Gaspar Noe from enfant terrible into just terrible. Why this happened, and how it was allowed to happen, will unlikely be able to be adequately justified. It's certainly a film that could kill Noe's career dead, which is a real shame, bearing mind his other works are fascinating ones.

If you are a drug user, or enjoy hallucinations, then you may find some parts of this film intriguing. However, for ordinary mortals, this is a complete shambles. It will appeal to no one else, and personally, I think it is a film that is best left unseen and consigned to history as the failure it is! A warning to Noe to not try and get too smart with his work!

N.B. Originally, the film was submitted to the BBFC with a running time of 160 minutes, and was passed uncut with an 18 certificate. However, after submission, Noe decided to remove an entire reel of film, known as "Reel 7", reducing the film to its current theatrical length of 135 minutes. According to the distributor, this was not done for censorship reasons, as the film had already been passed uncut, but to reduce the running time to something more acceptable to modern audiences. The longer, 160-minute version, is due to be released to UK DVD in 2011.

Review by Pooch

Released by Trinity Film Entertainment/Wild Bunch