Inherently film is a subjective medium, because the camera is controlled by one person’s view point. However, the subjectivity of Gaspar Noe’s Enter The Void, which is focused on manipulating the protagonist’s point of view, is in stark contrast with the objectivity of Steve McQueen’s distant, yet lingering camera. Within the subjectivity of film as a physical placement of the camera, Noe and McQueen have taken the audience in two very different directions by emphasizing their objectivity or subjectivity. In addition to camera point of view, their lighting is starkly different - McQueen illuminating all characters in a pure, bright white that feels natural, even angelic while the majority of Noe’s piece remains dimly lit by blinking neon lights, eliciting a sleezy nightclub vibe that could be compared to the blinking lights of 40’s film noir. These filmic techniques support the different treatment of humanity by each director. McQueen is interested in showing the resilience of humanity, the strength and power humans are capable of. Noe is obsessed with how humanity destroys itself - how it morphs and detroys the purity bestoyed with the gift of life.
Hunger, one of my favorite films, keeps the audience at an observational distance throughout film. The two shot of Sands and the Priest uses a stable, distant camera so the audience has to study the interaction, struggle to hear their words and interpret their facial expressions. They are bathed in a bright white light that spills in naturally from the windows, mimicing the clensing of a baptism. Sands is cleansed in his own mind, having released all semblence of doubt from his mind. The airing of grievences, and the bare facts standing in the unassuming light of day, McQueen allows the audience to discern Sand’s view of humanity, but only in terms of an opposing viewpoint, accessing two different understandings of humanity objectively. The slow dolly down the hall of the prison as the prisoners execute their ‘dirty protest’ by pouring their urine in the hall is observing the phenonmenon. McQueen includes no shots of prisoners or guards, making the audience a fly on the wall, so to speak. The repeition of this shot also works to that objective point of view - after the guard has cleaned the floor, faster the camera slides over the wet floor with the words of a stone cold Margaret Thather ringing in the spectator’s ears. We understand the protest, we understand the opposition. The objective camera and the barest lighting emphasize an untampered display of “what we, as humans are capable of morally, physically, psychologically. What we will inflict and…endure.” (McNamee)
Gaspar Noe’s Enter The Void was quite an eye/earfull, but I can’t even believe the controversy about it discussed in Palmer’s article. It’s creative expression. If you have a problem with it, don’t watch the film. Problem solved. But back to the original topic: The camera is specifically following Oscar’s point of view, making the audience experience everything through his eyes, literally - walking down the stairs, taking drugs, even getting shot. After he dies, the attachment to Oscar stays, as his soul wanders the earth, moving through walls from a directly overhead helicopter shot, looking at the aftermath his death causes. The lighting in Tokyo is always portrayed as night, explored with neon blinking lights, allowing the spectator brief moments of chaotic clarity, tinted pink, green or purple. The daylight is only shown in accordance with Oscar’s innocent, happy youth - until the crash caused by another human. The darkness and creepy, unnatural choice of lighting contrasted with natural light during memories stresses the subjectivity of the viewpoint given to the spectator. In the darkness, numbed from any feeling, humanity can’t be seen for the cruelty it inflicts - flashbacks of the bloody car crash can’t be seen in the dark of the club on DMT.