Whatever else its merits may be, Gaspar Noe’s Enter the Void immediately enters the canon of first-person cinema. The highly subjective camera that depicts an experience from the point of view of one of the characters in a film has been a source of fascination and frustration in cinema for decades. Executed well, and in short bursts, it can be an effective tactic. For instance, there’s a memorable sequence in Carl-Theodor Dreyer’s Vampyr (1932) in which the camera seems to be placed inside a coffin and then carried through the streets. But 1947’s The Lady in the Lake, a feature-length film noir shot entirely with a subjective camera, is an oft-discussed but somewhat goofy curio that is seldom actually dragged out into the light of day.
“Time destroys all things,” mutters an aged character at the beginning and declares the Godardian title card at the end of this infernal spectacle from 39-year-old enfant terrible Gaspar Noé. Provocative to a fault, violent beyond my ability either to anticipate or describe, and serious like a fucking tumor, the multiple atrocities visited upon the audience by Irreversible are a kind of visceral attack. It’s meant to leave bruises.