The films of the New French Extremity and the accompanying focus on Gaspar Noé examine an important, controversial and highly violent cinema movement. They are not suitable for all.
The film you are about to watch may contain very dark themes, graphic imagery, and scenes of a very upsetting nature including sexual violence and body horror.
Gaspar Noé on ‘Enter the Void’
Where did the inspiration for this project come from?
I grew up with an atheist education, but towards the end of adolescence, when you start smoking joints, you also start asking yourself questions about death and the existence of an eventual afterworld. Even though I’ve never participated in any religious faith, I started to get interested in books to do with reincarnation, Life after Death by Raymond Moody in particular, and I had this whole crazy idea of what could happen to me when I die. This fear of death dies down as you get older, but my initial ideas about making a film having to do with what happens after the death of the main character came from that time. Later, when I was around 23, I watched Lady in the Lake (Robert Montgomery, 1947) on mushrooms. It’s a film shot entirely from the point of view of the main character and, under the effect of the psilocybin, I was transported into the TV and into Marlowe’s head, even though the film was in black and white and subtitled. I thought that the technique of filming through the eyes of a character was the most beautiful cinematographic artifice there could be and that the day I made a film about the afterworld, I would film through the subjective vision of the character. Years later, the opening sequence of Kathryn Bigelow’s Strange Days confirmed the effectiveness of this filmic tool for me. So this is an idea I’ve had for a while, before Carne or Seul contre tous. I’ve written it over the past 15 years and I couldn’t even tell you how many drafts I’ve done. The first were much more narrative and linear, while the later drafts were much more abstract and euphoric. Irréversible was kind of a trial run for this project, where I tested ideas with flying cameras and long takes.
What’s the link between drugs and death?
Books tell stories where people have hallucinations at the moment of their death, linked to the secretion of DMT in their brain. This molecule is a substance that is the source of dreams, and, apparently, a massive discharge of DMT can occur in the brain during an accident or when one dies. It’s the same molecule that we absorb in our systems when we take ayahuasca, the magic Amazonian drink… I’ve never experienced clinical death, nor been in a coma, and I don’t believe in any kind of life after death. But I liked the idea of making a film about a character who wanted to reassure himself by believing in some kind of afterworld. As if he needed to embark on one last spiritual voyage, projecting his obsessions, desires and fears along the post-mortem path described in The Tibetan Book of the Dead.
Speaking of The Tibetan Book of the Dead, was the book a direct source of inspiration? Is this film a loose adaptation or variation?
In the description of the afterworld in The Tibetan Book of the Dead, there is definitely a voyage, a process with several stages that leads up to the final stage: reincarnation. But inside, the visions and the nightmares that are supposed to reveal the psyche, or past life, of the dying individual, aren’t described. The ‘Book’ is very abstract, very colourful and very poetic. This parallel world, where the spirit, which has now left the body, floats for a long time, is described as a reality as illusory as the world of the living. Lots of people have been inspired to write fiction by this book (in particular Philip K. Dick), but it was also used to guide people through collective LSD-induced psychedelic voyages, as Timothy Leary did in the 70s. While the book is a religious text, it quickly became a beacon for the hippies I so admired as a kid.
Did you want to film in Tokyo from the start?
The first version of the script took place in the Andes, the second in France and I wrote another version thinking it could take place in New York… But for me, Japan is the most fascinating country there is and I always wanted to shoot a film there. For this specific project, with its hallucinatory sequences, all requiring very vibrant colours, Tokyo (which, as far as I know is one of the most colourful cities with the most flashing lights on the planet) was the ideal setting. Even if it seemed very complicated at the outset, it was a huge pleasure to film there, and I would be happy to make another film in Japan. Despite the technical complexity of the shoot, the crew was so passionate about the film that even working 14 hours a day, six days out of seven, I felt like I was having a good time. I rediscovered the energy I had when I was young, making short films, but this time with an incredibly talented, ultra-professional crew. Their desire for perfection was as joyous as it was contagious. Later, I filmed with a crew in Quebec that was just as motivated and professional even if their working methods were very different. It’s pretty strange to go from a shoot with decadent post-adolescents to a touching shoot with kids.
The film uses very complex camera movements…
My biggest obsession when I started preparing the film wasn’t knowing who was going to act in it, but who my key grip was going to be. The most complicated part was getting someone who would be talented enough to figure out various ways of attaching the camera to the crane so that it could continually fly through the walls. It seemed like an impossible technical feat, we tried to make prototypes. Finally, we thought of filming in real locations, but we had to reconstruct a lot in the studio because otherwise it was impossible. As a result we had these enormous cranes in the studio and sometimes their movement was limited. I had nightmares where the crane got stuck, every night I dreamt of camera positioning and shot order… Thankfully, we hired a great Japanese key grip who was also very cool, it’s really a miracle that the film is such a technical success because every sequence raised a new problem.
How would you define the film’s genre?
Did you always have this psychedelic idea in mind?
Even if I really like Alan Clarke, Peckinpah, Fassbinder or certain directors that represent existence with a certain amount of cruelty, this time I wanted to make a hallucinatory film with colours and images, something hypnotic and dreamlike where the visual beauty and the sensorial overpower the factual. Without wanting to compare myself to these geniuses, this time I thought more of certain sequences in Kubrick’s 2001 or of Kenneth Anger’s work. Even if it’s often a question of getting high, it’s not a film about getting high, but about the idea of existence as a drifting boat with no port of arrival. The main subject of the film is rather the sentimentality of mammals and the shimmering vacuity of the human experience.
ENTER THE VOID
Directed by: Gaspar Noé
Production Companies: Wild Bunch, Fidélité, BUF
In co-production with: Essential Filmproduktion, BIM Distribuzione
In association with: Les Cinémas de la Zone, Paranoid Films
With the support of: Eurimages
With the participation of: Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication, Centre national de la cinématographie, FFA – Filmförderungsanstalt, Canal+,
Orange Cinema Series
With the support of: MEDIA Programme of the European Union
Production Services: Twenty First City, Filmarto
International Sales: Wild Bunch
Produced by: Brahim Chioua, Vincent Maraval, Olivier Delbosc, Marc Missonnier, Pierre Buffin
Co-produced by: Philippe Bober, Valerio De Paolis
Line Producers: Olivier Thery-Lapiney, Georgina Pope, Suzanne Girard, Isabell Wiegand, Susanne Marian, Peter Hermann
Associate Producers: Gaspar Noé, Nicolas Leclercq
Chief Executive Officer: Laurence Clerc
Production Managers: Shin Yamaguchi, Josee Lacelle, Sarah Nagel
Production Co-ordinators: Karine D’hont, Masa Kokubo, Nathalie Cecyre
Production Accountant: Nadjib Otmani
Unit Manager (Canadian Unit): Maurine Boutin
Unit Co-ordinators (Japanese Unit): Shuzo Miyori, Sho Takeda
Location Managers: Masahiro Hondo, Lucio Tomaro, Claude-Andrée du Mesnil
Post-production Supervisors: Olivier Thery-Lapiney, Susana Antunes
Assistant Directors: Jimbo Hideaki, Toshio Hanaoka, Michael Williams
Casting Director (Japanese Unit): Yoichiro Hase
Casting (Canadian Unit): Hélène Rousse, Total Casting
Written by: Gaspar Noé
Written with the assistance of: Lucile Hadzihalilovic
Director of Photography: Benoît Debie
Camera Operator: Gaspar Noé
B Camera Operator: Jitsu Toyoda
Gaffers: Charles Beetz, Yuji Wada, Takayuki Kawabe
Head Grip: Akira Kanno
Key Grip (Canadian Unit): Jeff Nichol
Still Photographer: Bruce Yamakawa
Digital Visual Effects: BUF
BUF VFX Art Director: Pierre Buffin
BUF VFX Supervisor: Geoffrey Niquet
BUF VFX Producer: Nicolas Delval
BUF VFX Editor: Isabelle Capgras
Psychedelic Images on TV: Glennwiz
Kirlian Effects Research: Thorsten Fleisch, Alex Paintings, Luis-Felipe Noé
Special Effects: Les Versaillais
Editors: Gaspar Noé, Marc Boucrot, Jerome Pesnel
Art Supervisor: Marc Caro
Production Designers: Kikuo Ohta, Jean Carrière
Art Department Co-ordinator: Asuka Sugiyama
Set Decorator: Susan MacQuarrie
Prop Master: Ayako Imoto
Costume Designers: Tony Crosbie, Nicoletta Massone
Make-up Artists: Linda Gordon, Félix Larivière, Tomomi Higuchi
Typography Designer: Tom Kan
Laboratory: B-Mac, Imagica Corp
Film Stock: Kodak (Japan)
Sound Designer: Ken Yasumoto
Sound Mixers: Ryotaro Harada, Claude Lahaye
Boom Operators: Francis Péloquin, Rin Takada
Re-recording Mixer: Lars Ginzel
Sound Editors: Gwenolé Leborgne, Valérie Deloof
Sound Effects Director: Thomas Bangalter
Foley Artist: Nicolas Becker
Dolby Consultant: Dominique Schmit
Studios: Toho Studios
Paz de la Huerta (Linda)
Nathaniel Brown (Oscar)
Cyril Roy (Alex)
Olly Alexander (Victor)
Masato Tanno (Mario)
Ed Spear (Bruno)
Emily Alyn Lind (little Linda)
Jesse Kuhn (little Oscar)
Nobu Imai (Tito)
Sakiko Fukuhara (Saki)
Janice Sicotte-Béliveau (Oscar’s mother)
Sarah Stockbridge (Suzie)
Stuart Miller (Victor’s father)
Simon Chamberland (father)
Joan Heithfield (grandmother)
Kenneth Hethfield (grandfather)
Jessica DeMarco (social worker)
Lucas Sirois, Ewan Wildgeinton (Oscar, 2 years old)
Alexandre Bergeron (Oscar baby)
Mackenzie Falconbridge (Linda baby)
Rumiko Kimishima (Rumi)
Akira Kuzuki, Sayuki Nakamura, Naori Nakamura, Naoko Hirosawa (techno club girls)
Kenji Isomura (strip club manager)
Akira, Anna, Marie, Rico, Risa, Ryô, Yuri, Sandra (strippers)
Milton James (strip club bouncer)
Hideomi Nagahama, Takaharu Hachiya,
Toshio Hanaoka, Kazuhiro Nakanishi (bilingual officers)
Adrien Ledanois, Keiji Suzuki (Bruno’s friends)
FOCUS ON: GASPAR NOÉ
I Stand Alone (Seul contre tous)
Sun 1 May 18:10; Fri 20 May 20:40
Irreversible: The Straight Cut (Irréversible)
Mon 2 May 18:30
Enter the Void
Sun 8 May 14:30; Sat 21 May 20:00
Sun 8 May 18:15; Mon 23 May 20:20
Gaspar Noé in Conversation
Tue 10 May 21:00
Gaspar Noé’s Mixtape + Q&A with Gaspar Noé
Thu 12 May 18:00
Fri 20 May 18:40; Mon 23 May 18:40
Fri 27 May 18:15; Mon 30 May 20:50 + extended intro by season programmer Anna Bogutskaya
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