But if you're still intrigued then sit down and get ready for nearly three hours of mind-blowing imagery that you'll never forget! Although IMDb lists the Toronto Film Festival version as "only" 135 minutes, according to my watch we got the 163 minute version that was shown at Cannes. The presenter also warned us 3 times before the screening that anyone with epilepsy should leave the theatre due to the flashing lights in the film. She was quite serious about that.
I was a bit apprehensive prior to the start of this movie. I didn't "get" 2001 at all the first time I watched it and I positively hated David Lynch's ERASERHEAD. Would I enjoy ENTER THE VOID? Understand it? Walk out before the end? Yes, yes and no.
The film opens with Oscar and Linda, siblings from the United States living in Japan, looking out at Tokyo from an apartment balcony. It quickly becomes obvious that Oscar is both a drug dealer & addict while his sister works as a stripper. Their tragic family history is revealed in segments throughout the first hour. The entire film is seen from Oscar's perspective, either as: (1) First-person, shaky camera, blurry shots as Oscar walks around Tokyo, very high on drugs (2) An out-of-body experience where Oscar floats around the city observing Linda's life and the people that interact with her (3) Flashbacks to Oscar and Linda's youth, similar to (1) except that here we always see the back of Oscar's head in the shot rather than "through his eyes" (4) A surprise at the climax of the film.
Number (1) above may sound nausea-inducing to some, but there's usually interesting dialogue to distract you from the disorienting visuals and these scenes only comprise a small percentage of the total screen time. Technique number (2) could have been Oscar-worthy if it was filmed for a less controversial movie. Floating and spinning above the city of Tokyo and watching various dramas unfold from up above is absolutely incredible. You'll spend so much time watching from this perspective that it's easy to get lost in the images and forget what an incredible technical achievement you're observing.
Virtually all of the key plot elements occur within the first 90 minutes of the film. After that the film transforms into more of a psychedelic, visual experience while the story fades away. This phase of the film really tested my patience and I started to check my watch frequently but there were enough eye-popping scenes that I'm sure I'll view this a second time someday. The momentum returns during the final 10 or 15 minutes, and although this final phase is simply a logical conclusion of what had been blatantly foreshadowed earlier, it's nonetheless amusing and incredible to watch the taboo-breaking finale.
This film is very unique, disorienting and absolutely incredible & unforgettable. I can definitely understand why it's been compared to 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, but I found ENTER THE VOID to be more accessible and more comprehensible during my first viewing. It's too controversial and too bizarre to appeal to most people, but it will undoubtedly find its niche as one of the greatest cult classics of all-time.