Film Feature: Enter the Void (2009) Synopsis and Scene Preview

enter-the-void

If you are up for some mind-bending, visually-stimulating cinematic experience, you might want to check out Gaspar Noe’s 2009 psychedelic melodrama film, Enter the Void. Packed with electrifying visuals, the film takes its audience into the wild night paradise at the heart of Tokyo where Oscar and his sister Linda reside.

Living in a small shabby apartment in the midst of a bustling metropolis, Oscar operates as a small-time drug dealer, together with his friend Alex from whom he gathered insights on death and reincarnation based on The Tibetan Book of the Dead. On the other hand, his sister Linda works as a nightclub stripper whose unreserved attachment towards his brother Oscar is made apparent throughout the film.

A tragic night in some local bar witnessed the police bust operation which lead to Oscar’s arrest and death. As he was trapped and shot dead inside the restroom cubicle, Oscar’s spirit flew out his physical body and wandered throughout the city—haunted and restless, but even more still alive in the recollection of a promise he made to his sister: that he would never abandon her no matter what happens.

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Death and Demystification

I went to the cemetery today: a one-ride trip to the northern part of the city that is well-known for roasted pork and burial grounds and crematoriums. I have been to this area only once in my life, about two years ago, when we had to take Lola to her final resting place. Even then, I couldn’t understand the idea of burial rites as the final passage of a person’s life. And when they said in unison, “Lola is finally going to rest,” I thought mournfully to myself, “Finally?”

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A Royal Exile

Some days I just feel this inexplicable exhaustion from writing, as if every word I have in my head is drained to its last dying drop and every sentence is wiped out clean of their substance. I have been writing for as long as I can remember, and there is simply too much friction in my head already brought about by the relentless engagement of words, by the merciless impingement of their letters.

Don’t get me wrong. I am more than thankful that I am still able to write, even if most of my writings now are just musings, personal reflections on my every day life in the city, reviews of my most favorite books and films, and honest takes on beauty products and online shops. I have created quite a distance now from the kind of writing I had been accustomed to for the past five years in the university, and sometimes it feels odd to write about things which I am not so sure of writing, things which I am not familiar with. (Like how am I going to write in a manner that acknowledges the presence of the reader and allows the reader to know of his/her participation?) When I was writing way back in the university, I wrote mostly for exposure: to let my ideas be disclosed to my professors without thinking whether they would approve of it or not, or whether they would understand it or not. What I learned from reading philosophy was to get as brutal as possible to expression. I think I was never able to finish the Critiques because I had no patience with Kant. Hegel was so close to unfathomable. Heidegger was gigantic with words until the eternal charade of Being and being. Nietzsche’s my favorite but they say his writings are not for everybody, and sometimes I feel like I am part of that excluded crowd.

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Return to Poseidon

Today I stood in the middle of a sea: a great white sea of papers and parchments and pain crashing one after the other with all the madness of a tidal wave, screaming to kiss the shores with all the urgency of a ticking time bomb. I stood in the middle of the raging waters and looked longingly at the immeasurable vastness of this now foreign territory, an ocean-deep of memories from my five-year stay at the university. Piles and piles of papers lay before me like flowing river: test papers, term papers, thesis drafts, photocopied pages of books from all of my adored authors, sheets of scratch and sentiments.

I looked each of them with wistful eyes, trying not to remember the long tough days when I once clung onto them like a child, like my whole life depended on every single word written on their pages. I read these words now, treaded on them carefully as if trying to extract a secret code, to see if maybe I had missed something important in all of my five-year education in philosophy. But in the end I only see these words words words and the absence of their context, their meaning, and realize that maybe I could never think again as deeply as when I did when I was there in the university—face to face with the unspeakable colors of dusk, the gentle breeze wheezing from the lonely river nearby, the gentle rhythm of trees swaying as in a dance, the sound of students’ laughter seeping through the cracks of time.

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December Souls

It has been pretty heavy this burden that I’ve been carrying lately, and things have been quite harsh and unforgiving. But then again, when you look at my life beginning from my childhood days up until this present day, you would see and recognize the same pattern, the same theme, that have been dominating this life.

Sometimes I think maybe we are fated to chase this lost object situated between the extreme polarities of pain and pleasure. Maybe we are condemned to repeat the same cycle throughout our lonely lives. Maybe, just maybe, we are cursed to this pursuit just as much as we are cursed to our doomed destinies, and our only chance at happiness—if such a thing really exists—lies in our momentary experience of the extra-human; of the other side.

Sometimes I feel it when I look at the city view from the sixth floor of the university; when I fumble for words at the sight of the sunset and how it bleed in colors which I have no name of; how people and voices blur in the background and merge into the silhouette; how I wish it was a different person I was speaking to. Sometimes I feel it when I feel things all at once: that sharp and unpredictable prick in the heart, speaking for itself to you in a completely ethereal language, convincing you of what lies beyond us.

Religion has a word for it: heaven. Sometimes I would like to believe much more than that. A world that is completely beyond our language, beyond our grasp; that the mere concept of such a world would render it defeating or negating. It is a world that we do not know, but it is always there. And if I let you annihilate the last sentence, please do so. And then I shall fall silent and let all language retreat and run back home.

Without words, I could only feel the sweeping passage of Time, this haunting reminder that we only have a few months to spare (if we’re lucky enough), and that the five four years almost feel like a dream and nothing more.

December—the syllables run dry through my palate, my screaming tongue. I want it to be over, but I do not want it to end.

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That Which We Call God

Every semester has its own dangers. This semester’s danger is in the form of a collision: bodies smashed against each other, heads thrown in all directions, blood everywhere. It happened all too fast, and before I knew it I was standing along the road together with the other passengers, shocked as we were at the tragedy in front of us.

I could not erase in my mind the image of that afternoon — a young girl drenched in her own blood, almost with no life at all, caught between the webbed strands of both life and death. I walked away from the scene and headed home as quickly as possible, aching and limping as I tread the busy streets to get to safety. In my head I was bursting with prayers, thankful that I can still catch my own breath while that poor little girl fights for her own.

Earlier in the university, I shared conversations with few of my colleagues. At one point, one of them asked rather mournfully, “What is the point of everything?” to which I replied, “Maybe there is no point.” Part of my response was the steady belief in the uncertainty of things, if not in the absence of it all. Maybe there is no higher purpose or direction in our lives. Maybe there is nothing in the world that makes sense. Maybe we’re just ashes blown by the wind, left to scatter helplessly in thin air. We were back to Existentialism 101 all over again and I was the bitter nihilist in the midst of them all.

And then came the accident. A split-second collision of atomic particles bursting aimlessly into space and time and memory. What happened earlier this afternoon shamed me in more ways than one. It was as if some invisible entity was there to direct my thoughts and to command my actions to lead me to safety. If I had sat in the front seat my head would have been smashed by now. But here I am typing these words and praying, praying, praying.

Dear God, what illusions we humans have of our own providence. 

Fight or Flight

I will be turning a year older tomorrow. On the one hand I feel so young and insecure, as though I was born yesterday. I am filled up to the brim with a swirling energy to spread my wings and to conquer the entire world. I am jammed with passion for things and places that are yet to be discovered. Most of all, there is so much curiosity in the depths of my soul for everything unknown in the world; the kind of yearning portrayed in movies and novels, and in the lost sad lives of the young and the careless. Every second of this goddamn life feels so much like an unfolding Bildungsroman.

But on the other hand I feel so old, like someone who has lived through the end of life. There is too much in my soul that begs for calmness, for repose, for a supertemporal silence in a world full of noise. I see myself in the faces of old people around me, and how I lose myself every time I trace the crooked lines in their wrinkled faces, the fading life in their graying hair, the smell of breath and old age in their every uttered word. I admire their composure as they stare unflinchingly at blank spaces in front of them for hours on end without feeling lost in the emptiness of the surrounding void. I admire their complacency and their courage to confront the staring abyss, and to feel no ounce of doubt in the reflection that stares back at them.

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To Write Love on Her Arms

Are you following me?

I have spun myself into a circle, into places where she’d been, and sought for a sign. I have left a mark on the road in case I forgot the way back, but my mind has lost traces of her footsteps the moment she mentioned something about substance. And right then I thought about abuse and the dim lights of a yellow bulb singing its way into her soul, a round of prescriptions on the bathroom floor taken twice, thrice, until there was numbness and the sorry look from a stranger’s face saying “What have you done to yourself?”

I thought about her eyes, dull in the height of frenzy, and watched the rainbow haze float from out of her misshapen mouth. I thought about her silence but all I remembered was her scream, and the cracking of an old vinyl as it swallowed the hollow spaces between her smoke-stained teeth.

I thought about the crooked line that separates both substance and abuse, and wondered how one person could be both. I thought about the setting sun, and the stillness of her sunken face when Death finally came to empty her of her miserable miserable life. They said overdose. They said she had too much. But she was so empty, so hungry, when she left us all.

Are you following me?

There are only two points in a straight line. Point A is where we’re at. Point B is where we’re going. Kara never cared about the line, only that she wanted to carry her cross to eternity. She jumped her way out of it—into the vacuousness of everything real and imaginary. She spun herself in circles, in spirals, for she never believed in an end. She danced. She dances still, to the slow steady music of an ethereal eternal return.

Trick or Treat

In a matter of days school is bound to begin again, and I sit here waiting for the days to stretch themselves into weeks, for weeks to spread into years, for years to transform into an infinite set of numbers, and for time to remain ever running like a wild horse in a race against the current.

On my right hand is a cluster of courage wrapped around my fighting fist, prepared to take on this crucial challenge, a brand new battle this brand new semester brings. On my left hand are splinters of all that is left of this waging war; pieces of fear, doubt and despair summed up in a blazing ember of the unknown. At the back of my mouth, at the roof of my tongue, lies the bitter taste of this wordless loneliness and this soul-deep ennui, spilling its venom through my pallid lips.

There is poison in words as lethal as that of hemlock. I spill my sentences and drink from its cup, and wait listlessly for death to arrive in hope of purging my soul of its somberness. But in the end there is only a space, dead and blank with meaning, resonant of a struggle in immortality, the return of that which is eternal.

People always tell us to look at pain with a sense of impermanence, to think that one day it shall all come to pass. But what I have learned from this struggle is that it never ends. It conceals itself so as to mask its nature but soon enough it reveals itself in its ugliest forms. Or maybe it has always been there in front of us all along, awaiting for the proper moment to devour. Monsters we have become of our attempts to vanquish our fate. Ghastly ghouls at the mercy of the elements. Soulless creatures in a perpetual and unbroken stream of rampage and rebellion.

Behold, the life of the living dead.

In Memoriam

In the roaring darkness of the evening we tread along the sleepy streets of Manila tucked only by the reassurance of the glimmering moon above us. The deafening silence inside me was swallowed altogether by the blaring sound of her pain. Lola held unto me like she was drowning, like she was slipping from the boundaries of both life and death, like she needed someplace safe. And in my mind I wondered:

Safe.

She was a 76 year old woman clutched in my arms. She held my hands as tightly as she ever could and twirled her fingers around mine: a sort of child’s play. Her lips murmured both prayer and pain as the cab, with its hazard lights on, whooshed across the somber streets like a passing comet in the blackness of the universe. The city lights sang to her restlessness as the agonizing pain consumed every inch of the woman I had known.

She was not my biological grandmother. But even then I knew in my heart that she was my Lola if only for that moment, if only for a little while. Before we rushed Lola to four different hospitals that evening, she was at my door knocking and asking me to pray with her. I hurriedly stood up from my study table and left the laptop and the pile of term papers undone. When I went in to her room I was intoxicated by the gnawing stench of pain that lingered like lanterns on the ceiling.

Pray with me.

Dear God, we come before you in our humblest prayer. We acknowledge your power and your glory over all the things you have created. We know in our hearts that you can lift the pain in my heart, that you can heal me. We thank you, dear God. We thank you.

For what? 

She prayed as a true believer would pray. I prayed out of the excessive rage towards a God I do not understand. I felt it unfair that I was beside her: young and healthy and able, and she was beside me: old and weak and decaying.

To someone else’s eyes I was the better half in the equation and she, the equivalent of zero fading into an infinite blur of nothingness. But to me she was the sum of what every woman should be. Brave in the face of fear. Sure in her salvation. Lola held on to her faith and to her life even if it means carrying with her a plethora of pain in her frail little body. Lola understood, much to my surprise and to everyone else, the inevitability of her situation and fought to the end of her irrevocable life. I listened as the machines hummed and the tubes wobble around her sunken body. I witnessed as she silently and courageously bore the gruesome ordeal of hospitalization. I watched her face in the bleakness of those sleepless hours and told to myself that she really is a fighter. Perhaps no woman could ever be as strong as the woman I saw in her. Her spirit, her composure. The tender acceptance of it all.

Days after we rushed her to the ER, the gentle stillness of death came and clothed the world around us once and for all. Silence hung in the abandoned room as much as in the abandoned hearts of those who loved and prayed for Lola. People believe that death takes away a person and leaves only its body to decay. But what I believe is that even death has been conquered by a spirit as brave and resilient as that of Lola. I believe that she is not dead in a place where the dead gathers, but she is alive somewhere else. I do not know where or why or how. I do not know if people really lives on long after their disintegration. I do not know if the soul is ever truly immortal or if it ever really exist. But when you speak these words, you know.

It has been two weeks since Lola went on. And this is my dire attempt to relive the past two weeks of her absence. It has been with great difficulty to extract these thoughts and translate them into strings of woven words. I suppose certain situations do not need words. But together with the many predicaments of writing your memory, I stand in a hopeful anticipation of spending just a little more time with you. You taught me to have faith again no matter how frail or flimsy such a faith could be. You taught me how to pray as a child would pray. You taught me to hope again, to believe again. Lola I would kill for a chance to spend another lunch with you or to laugh with you about the most senseless things in the world. I would do anything to listen to your stories again. But tonight all I can do is carry on. I know you’re in a safe place now Lola. Dancing with the grace of a true believer, a true champion. I wish you all the best tonight as you celebrate your 77th year with the Lord.

Happy Birthday.

Horror House

There is so much sleeplessness in my soul. And in the stillness of this eerie silence I am taken back to a time when the night used to be my home. That was a few years ago, when life was still a lot more beautiful, more alive, and when this house was still close to something I call home. Those are only memories now. Tonight I listen to the deafening melody of this cold October evening and feel estranged by the unfamiliar mood of this darkness. I close my eyes and wait for some nocturne magic, but instead all I have is fear in my heart thinking that there are ghosts in the house where the starlit skies should be. I hear the gush of wind slamming through the window and I imagine some butterfly wings flapping in someplace else, waiting for its spell to take hold of the world, waiting for the incantation. When I try to pause for a while in silence, to reflect, to meditate, I feel the heavy pangs of existence clawing deep within me: first the skin, then the flesh, then it digs into the bones until it finds my soul and feast upon it. There is this unmistakable pain in the chest that seem to hurt more and more the moment I find myself alone in the world, awake at 3:00 in the morning and aching over some pain that I cannot put to words.When I try to look at my life now I figure there are so many things to be thankful for. So many in fact that I could not even recall a time when I was more privileged, more entitled to life’s simplest pleasures. But everyday I struggle through life with a perpetual sense of miserable hopelessness, of fear, hate, doubt, mistrust, even danger for all the things I do not know.

Dearly Departed

Silence hung low in the wake of this calm Saturday morning to pave way for the passing of such a beloved friend and companion. I woke up to a hope that you are okay, that you will be okay, only to have my hope smashed into fragile little pieces when I saw that painful look in your face, and how my heart bled in helplessness. But then maybe I was wrong. Maybe in a place far far away from here you are glad and happy and free  — free from all the pain and all the mistakes of the people around you. Maybe you have left a long time ago back when we, humans, foolishly thought that we had you, back when the urgency of death was too far away from anybody’s reach. Or maybe, just maybe, my feeble attempt to reconstruct my feelings by means of writing about you is a mere escape from this inexplicable burden in my chest; this agony, this  pain brought about by the aching realization that you are gone now. How sudden it was, how tormenting! It had only been 20 months, and how I’m begging now to have another 20 months with you.

Yesterday in PHIL 2073 class, I sat and listened intently to my professor and he quoted, as if by some unexplained premonition, the New Testament in the Holy Bible.

Death comes like a thief in the night.

How I bleed myself with every inch of regret for all the things that I could have done for you. How I wish I could recreate the past three days of this week and point myself directly to the first signs of your death. How I should have stayed up last night and accompanied you to your comfort, your safety. How I should have loved you more, when you were alive, when you were with me.

People tell us that we only learn the value of something when we have experienced the loss. People tell us to love before it’s too late. But most of all, people tell us to look at life with a sense of finality and realize that sooner or later we too shall come face to face with our demise. Until today I had myself covered with plenty of layers of my indifference. Until today my heart was a hard-shelled amber, stiff and impenetrable. Until today I never imagined that you would mean so much to me, and that losing you would make me lose myself as well. Your death, so sweet and silent, was like a gentle rainfall in the midst of a sunny day. Even in the final seconds of your short-lived existence, you did not cease to be that adorable little buddy that we have always known. And even with my scared shaky voice you still responded when I called your name.

I miss you already, buddy. As the hours move farther and farther away from the lonely days of August, so does my heart moves on from the lingering sadness of your passing away. This does not mean that I will forget you. I promise to remember you: when I wake up in the morning, when I sleep at night, when I go about with my routinary days in the university, when I go home and find that your eyes are what I’m longing for. I will always remember your smile, your stare, and even that funny way you smell when you haven’t taken a bath for weeks. I will always remember your patience in sitting for a long time by the dinner table waiting for a piece of bread to be given to you (And you did so without ever complaining). I will always remember your loyalty. I will always remember you.

Thank you so much for everything that I have learned from you, little buddy. Thank you so much for teaching me that much. Like everyone said, yours is a life lived well  — and even greater.