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'Climax' is a nightmarish, wild acid trip

by Daniel O'Connell Throughout his career, Argentine-French director Gaspar Noé has made a name for himself as a stylistic yet provocative filmmaker. His films are technically impressive, featuring excellent cinematography, and are visually mesmerizing to watch. However, this is contrasted by his use of disturbing graphic violence and sexual content. Noé’s body of work contains films such as Irreversible and Enter the Void, with the former causing walkouts at the Cannes Film Festival. With his latest film, Climax, Noé once again brings beautiful visuals and violent imagery with this arthouse take on a dance movie.

An experience with bizarre presentation and excellent choreography

Allegedly based off a true story, the film takes place in 1996; it focuses on a French dance troupe that plans to go on tour, starting in the United States. After rehearsing in an abandoned dance studio, the group relaxes by having a party, involving alcohol, drugs, and plenty of dancing. As the night goes on, it’s revealed the sangria everyone has been drinking has been spiked with LSD. The celebration quickly devolves into a disturbing nightmare of paranoia, sex, and violence.
Image from IMDb
As per Noé’s usual style, the film is presented in an unorthodox fashion, making it very interesting to watch. The film opens with an overhead shot of a bleeding woman wandering through a snowy landscape, which is quickly followed by the closing credits. Around nine minutes in, the opening logos are shown, and after an extended dance scene, the opening credits appear, with each cast and crew member being shown with a different style text. This style of presentation is very unique, letting the audience know what kind of movie that they’re getting into. By presenting the order of credits in reverse, it catches the audience off guard, and it makes them wonder what’s going to happen next after these credits disappear. The acting of the film is nothing to write home about, as most of the cast (with the exception of Sofia Boutella) are dancers and their dialogue is improvised. This is not a bad thing, as it gives the film an air of authenticity. It’s as if these are real people, rather than being actors reciting dialogue. These conversations they have range from the dancers’ dreams and aspirations to their sex lives. It gives them bits of character in a natural way that doesn’t feel forced. The real treat of this movie is the impressive dance choreography. The beginning of the film features a long sequence of the dance troupe rehearsing. It’s both choreographed beautifully while simultaneously being hypnotic to watch. The opening dance number is kinetic and full of energy. It comes off less as something improvised and more organic, as if it’s second nature to them. This also applies to an improvised dance sequence that takes place in the middle of the party. The troupe gathers around in a circle while each member dances in the middle of it, all filmed from an overhead shot. In contrast with the opening dance, this comes across as wild, chaotic, and frenzied, foreshadowing the events that’ll happen later on in the night.

Beautiful, colorful visuals and impressive cinematography

Image from IMDb
As with the other films that Noé has made, Climax features both amazing visuals and cinematography. These are more prominent in the latter half of the film, when the acid in the partygoers’ drinks kicks in and everything goes to hell in a handbasket. The second half of the film is made up of one long unbroken take, with a lot of the scenes being filmed at Dutch angles. This creates a feeling of disorienting unease, letting the audience know the hell that the characters are now going through. A scene that perfectly captures this unease is where one character, Selva (Sofia Boutella), has a bad reaction to the LSD. She ends up sprawling on the floor, wildly screaming and thrashing. This camerawork is complimented by the lighting in some of the rooms. Taking a cue from Suspiria, these scenes a lit in saturated colors, varying from reds to blues to greens. These two aspects of the film come together in, well, the climax, where an orgy breaks out on the dance floor. This is filmed in uncomfortable close-ups and tracking shots, with the scene being lit in a deep, hellish red. The one thing that will make or break the film for everyone is Noé’s penchant for violent, disturbing content. While toned down in comparison to Irreversible, the film still features things that’ll shock and disturb your average moviegoer. There were parts in this movie that bewildered me and made me bunch up in a ball in my seat. At one point, I even yelled out when something particularly shocking happened. I wanted to look away but was entranced by the depravity that was happening on screen.
Images: IMDb Featured Image: IMDb

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