Climax - an explosive, debaucherous carousal
If you have seen any of Gaspar Noé’s films before, then you know to approach with caution. He has famously pushed cinematic – and even moral – boundaries in Irreversible (2002) and Enter the Void (2009) and his most recent production is no different.
Noé has created a frantic exploration of dance as it collides with a bizarre drug-infused vitality which quickly descends into a claustrophobic, feverish hell. Taking place in one location, Climax follows the story of a young dance troupe at an after-rehearsal party as they plummet into certain chaos after someone secretly spikes the Sangria with LSD. The party then rapidly transforms into an intense, emotional horror as each character is tested both physically and psychologically by the anarchy which takes place around them. The authenticity of these characters, from their interview tapes at the beginning of the film to their casual conversations between each other about sex, life, and dance, create a unique intimacy which is a credit to Noé’s decision to use a cast predominantly consisting of dancers with little-to-no acting experience.
This intimacy, however, succumbs the audience to a more nightmarish experience than a pleasant one. The entire film is a total sensory overload from start to finish. Noé uses bold, colourful strobe lighting and a heavy electronic soundtrack to create a tenacious rhythm throughout – and if that isn’t enough to engage you – he then whips out extraordinary, extremely long, overhead shots which circle the room. The impressive camera work takes the audience on a cinematographic journey which is somehow both uncomfortably inclusive and frustratingly alienating. As an audience member, sometimes I felt as though I was inside the minds of the characters, feeling confused and disoriented, and other times I was the fly-on-the-wall, watching in horror as the atmosphere cascaded from uneasy panic to explosive chaos.
Perhaps the core element of the film which is most disturbing to observe is the retrogression from human to animal, like some kind of reverse evolution. The spiked alcohol invites the animals within the dancers to be unleashed, and the use of contemporary dance perfectly physicalises this transformation.
It is clear that Noé’s intentions with this film are to unsettle and perplex the person watching and he has achieved this very successfully. There are very few times when I have sat in the cinema during the final credits and people have not stood up to leave straight away but, instead, have looked around to note everyone else’s reaction. I can honestly determine that everyone was gobsmacked. Therefore, I would highly recommend going to watch Climax if you are craving a totally original, breath-taking cinematic experience. However, as with all Noé masterpieces; approach with caution.