Film review

Climax (2018) review: Big acid trip with horny dancers and an immersive technique

One thing that one can expect for sure from watching a Gaspar Noé film is a shock. A sexual, violent, disturbing shock. Coming to the international eye with Irréversible’s distressing rape scene and with his soft porn Love, Noé knows how to capture the viewer’s attention. And for his 5th feature Climax, Noé continues with this tendency.

Premiering at the 2018 Cannes Festival in the Directors’ Fortnight section, Climax won the Art Cinema Award and later several prestigious awards.

LSD in the sangria

A group of elite dancers practices their choreography in an abandoned school turned studio to prepare for their world tour. During their final afterparty before the tour, someone spikes the sangria with LSD. The dancers turn paranoid and look for the culprit of the drugging, while the trip of everyone becomes more intense alongside their sensations and feelings.

Neon lights and Selva’s dance/chaos. Screenshots from the trailer.

Dance and the physicality of acting

Through videotapes where Selva (Sofia Boutella) and DJ Daddy (Kiddy Smile) interview the cast for the tour, they discuss their perspective on sexuality, dance, and drugs. This sets up the opportunity for the first clue for the “detective” viewer who, like the dancers, does not know who put LSD in the sangria.

With an amazing choreography, the dancers show off their skills and take us with them into their chaotic desires, fears and worries. By dialogues about who wants to have intercourse with whom and their worries, we get more understanding of their further actions as the party and chaos unveil. When the drug kicks in, the protagonists become scared, and they express this through screams and violent and sexual actions. This leads to odd and desperate situations.

Using a steady camera, mainly following Selva, the drama starts at the main dance floor but moves to the corridors, toilets, and rooms of the building. This flow, improvised dialogues, shots from a distance revealing the entire body, POV’s, and the intensity of the cast’s movement evokes the sensation of theatre, a bodily theatre play where the space is intimate. Abrupt actions of the protagonists reinforce the latter. The camera is the eyes and witness of the developing drama — it is part of the trip, which immerses the viewer into the drama.

As everybody suspects people who did not drink the sangria, there is peer pressure to discover the culprit. And this pressure together with having a bad trip leads to increasing violence and sexual desire increase between the group members.

DJ Daddy and the wild party. Screenshot the trailer.

Fear and loathing in a neon building

Compared to Gaspar Noé’s previous works, Climax is more accessible to watch, less polarizing, but still contains his shocking factor and immersive qualities.

Protagonists talk about their morality, love for each other and future together while dancing to the techno music that prevails throughout the entire building. And to add a more shocking factor to the game, there is a child in this wild party. The drugged mother tries to protect the child from the craziness of the scene.

Red neon lighting in the building connotes a provocative notion of the lascivious thirst of the protagonists but also plunges the viewer into their red inferno overflown by their collective fear and anger as they look for the culprit and try to comprehend the situation.

Amid the chaos, which is watching people have a very bad acid trip, Gaspar Noé once again, proves how he can take us to an immersive ride, making the spectator feel part of the scene. However, never comprehending their behaviour as intoxicated people are unpredictable. It is within this madness that Noé excels, but the dialogue and the lacking morality strike here.

Conclusion

Climax is a shocking acid trip that transforms the physical into something more than actions. It’s the way of the dancers/characters to portray and express their accumulated fears and desires stimulated by the spiked sangria. The cinematography (Benoît Debie), camera work and lack of intrinsic dialogue shape the film into an expression of physicality.

Should you watch it?

For Climax, I have mixed feelings. The story is not convincing, and it does not trigger or leaves a message within you. However, the way Noé combines different elements of filmmaking into an immersive, almost theatre-play feeling, can be worth watching.

A BRIEF ANSWER

  • Yes, because you value an alternative way and techniques of expressing sentiments and deep feelings.
  • No, because the superficial dialogue focused on intercourse does not say anything to you and seeing people trip with confusing behaviours is not your thing.

Info

Director: Gaspar Noé
Main cast: Sofia Boutella

2018 | horror, drama | 96 min | Belgium, France | French, English | O’Brother Distribution (Belgium), Wild Bunch (France).

This article appeared first on Surrounded by Films (17 July 2021).

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Aspiring writer, film critic and travel enthusiast. Film blog: https://bit.ly/3001TDr

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S.Murell

S.Murell

Aspiring writer, film critic and travel enthusiast. Film blog: https://bit.ly/3001TDr

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