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ENTER THE VOID, currently in release from IFC Films (opening this Friday in Boston and Portland, OR), is like a Stan Brakhage-infused TRON death trip. Just as James Cameron waited years to get his blue-cat opus off the ground until the technology caught up with his vision, filmmaker Gaspar Noé (pictured) had to do the same to depict this trancelike journey through the neon tops of Tokyo. It took plenty of CGI mapping to capture his images, and lots of rendering to get the DMT hallucinations of the film’s protagonist just right.
Though known for such violently transgressive works as I STAND ALONE and IRREVERSIBLE, Noé in ENTER THE VOID aims to make the audience see the world through his protagonist Oscar’s stoner gaze—a state Noé is all too familiar with. While the film is edgy in its own way, with explicit sex, drug use and vehicular homicide, it is far gentler than his previous, notorious works. ENTER THE VOID’s aim is to be a thing of great beauty and hypnotic resonance.
Everything glows. Drugged-out visions bloom like flowers. And though the film deals with death, it produces a protective haze that covers the viewer like embryonic fluid—throbbing, muffled, bioluminescent. The movie also masks itself as a religious treatise, but closer examination reveals that its heart is remarkably atheistic, and the afterlife, which the film depicts as “divine,” is only a trick of sight, sound and synapse (and maybe even computer-generated graphics).
I had the honor of talking to Noé about ENTER THE VOID, its themes and even its typography (oh, those magnificent credits!) after its screening at Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater in New York City. He seemed shy though cordial, and coursed with a nervous intensity. The most striking part of the conversation was his willingness to share his thoughts about the things he loved without prompt. He was remarkably uninhibited—like his movies.
FANGORIA: What inspired you to make ENTER THE VOID?
GASPAR NOÉ: I believe it was by some personal experiences, but also by movies that pushed me to become a director, like 2001, ERASERHEAD and later THE INAUGURATIONS OF THE PLEASURE DOME by Kenneth Anger—movies that try to reproduce these feats, not, interpretation, but I try to reproduce the language of dreams.
FANG: Are you a fan of Stan Brakhage’s work?
NOÉ: I have seen many of his movies, actually the one with the, what’s the word…
FANG: The autopsy? THE ACT OF SEEING WITH ONE’S OWN EYES?
NOÉ: But I’m a big fan of Jordan Belson, Tony Conrad, and you can see that because there are a lot of flickering effects in ENTER THE VOID, or abstract images.
FANG: Why did you want to become a filmmaker?
NOÉ: To become the Wizard of Oz.
FANG: How was it shooting in Japan?
NOÉ: It was great; the people are so passionate in Japan. Actually, I think I’ll have problems shooting again in Europe, because people seem very busy compared to the Japanese, and the more energy you get from the crew, the better the movie is. They will not count, they will not check their watches to see if we’re running over time or whatever. They work 14, 16 hours a day, six, seven days a week, and they are passionate, like you are when you’re a teenager and doing your first short film. But they were hyper-professional. For a film director, shooting in Japan is a dream, as long as you understand their sense of hierarchy. There are things you cannot say or do there that would not be offensive in other countries, but would be there. Like, you don’t pick up your cell phone call while you are working; that is hyper-offensive.
FANG: How did you storyboard out this movie? I assume there was a lot of preparation to get the shots.
NOÉ: The difficult thing on this movie, besides that it was expensive, was that I was relying absolutely on the people doing the visual effects. Pierre Buffin, the visual effects supervisor, has a company that co-produced ENTER THE VOID. Otherwise, we would have never have found the money to do it. We are planning all of these hyper-complicated visual effects. He gave me the best people from his company for one month, two months, three months, and they came out with all these visuals that I couldn’t create myself. Compared to I STAND ALONE or IRREVERSIBLE, this was a far more collective movie; I cannot say that I solely directed it. I was maybe the captain of the football team. I was just pushing everybody to do their best. Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes not so easy, because as a captain you can’t control what people are doing. Sometimes, when it comes to the images or to the sound, people were taking the wrong paths and I had to bring them back.
As a director, sometimes the relationships with people are the most difficult part. We all have egos, and even when they are giving their best, if they stray far from your own vision, you say, “You’re doing your best, but it is not the way I want it,” and then you can get into emotional struggles with people who are just trying to give their all.
FANG: How close did it come to the world you wanted to create?
NOÉ: In the end, the movie is more troubling than people thought after reading the script. The screenplay was not dark; it was colorful, and seemed funnier than the movie is at the end. But I knew the film would go that way; like, this mushroom or acid trip would turn into a bad trip at a point, but of course I could not tell too much beforehand, because I think some of the financiers would have dropped out. So I said, “Oh, it’s going to be happy, like TRAINSPOTTING, where they took a dark subject and turned it into a joyful movie.” I knew I was lying; I just wanted the money to do the movie.
I also needed some film references before producing ENTER THE VOID to convince the producers that they were going to get their money back, so we had TRAINSPOTTING, MULHOLLAND DR.—a movie that was a commercial success, hopefully. IRREVERSIBLE was a commercial success, so I gave them all those titles and said it was going to be like all those movies, but more far more sentimental—you could add maybe SPLENDOR IN THE GRASS or something like that. Then once we started production, I knew the movie was heading somewhere else.
FANG: How did you get all the shots? Were you laying track the entire time, or was a lot of that CGI mapping?
NOÉ: Whenever you see an actor [in ENTER THE VOID], it is a real shot in a studio, done with a crane, but when the camera flies from one set to another, all the streets and other apartments you see in between—that’s all digital. We took photos from above apartments, above streets, and then they recreated them in 3-D with computers. Then they mapped the photos on the different sets and added people walking, cars moving. There were so many people working on visual effects in this movie—one-third of the whole crew.
FANG: Your lead actress, Paz de la Huerta, has noted you didn’t really “direct” her. Is that generally your style?
NOÉ: I don’t tell people what they should do; I just say, “If you go that way, it will be better for you.” But when it comes to giving emotions to be funny, to cry, scream—people know how they can trigger themselves to do it. I never really “direct” actors, I just push them to give their best.
TO BE CONTINUED
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