Gaspar Noé was one of this big names in the film industry I had no knowledge about. I knew he did something and people loved him and I was just nodding and smiling not to admit I have no clue what they were talking about. So ever since I’ve discovered that he was releasing a new picture I decided to go. Having no clue what it was about, I had to go. And it was a strange world I entered.
I was a little afraid that this would be much of a horror (because it kinda is and IMDb stated so). Trying to avoid this genre took me far away from weird dreams and I wasn’t very ready to repeat it. Gladly, it was bearable. The drastic touch was referring to a tragedy and drama to show viewer effects of LSD. Yes, it was drug-related but then this was literally a film about a party so whatever else could have been expected?
It was a vivid lecture on why drugs are bad for you. In the beginning, we got an introduction to every dancer joining the group. Some sort of a job interview. There were people from all around Europe, with all kinds of experiences. The questions varied from opinions on drugs to future plans. Each interview was a bit personalized and all of them were shown through an old TV which made the part distant in time.
But Climax really started with a final rehearsal of the dancing group. There was nothing ordinary about it. It was erotic and sensual. It looked like one living organism was being divided and connected from many different parts. The perfect flow between one body to another. Every person had their own personal style and impression but they were still together. I think it was some sort of introduction of each person, who they were outside and how they wanted to be recognized in society. It was an expression of boundaries and how far they would go. The cinematography of the scene was incredible, too. The camera flew from one person to another and the whole shot went through completely unedited.
After the rehearsal, the party began. A lot of the conversations started straight away and they weren’t discussing the weather. Troubles of youth, some may say. But then it got hardcore in no time. Even without literally any French I could have felt swearing and “bad words” discussing adult things if you know what I mean. And yet it was just a beginning. The dialogues were being changed subjects and partners so the audience could grasp more and more about the characters. And then something got bad. Everyone started to feel not well and they came to the conclusion that their drink had been drugged. They were trying to determine who was responsible and the fuss got crude and in the meantime, things started happening, driven by the drug.
Gaspar Noé (director) took us further than just to a party. His vast, unedited shots covered almost the whole film and everything had to be perfect at the time of the shooting. Bonus info, the shooting took only 15 days and the whole production was wrapped in four months! To create a feeling of a classic 90s disco, he used three colours common to any sort of dance floor: green, blue and red, the last one lasting the longest. It gave an unsure touch to the visuals and for a wallflower like me, a very uncomfortable one.
But of course, the major part of any dancing is music and it was on all the damn time. Even in the scenes outside the main dancefloor, the muffled ramble followed. This was kind of uncomfortable. Being in a noisy environment all the time can be overwhelming. It definitely was for me. I hate both the modern dance music and the noise. Anyway, it is not easy to focus and this was, too, some sort of a message. Because this is what parties are for? To have fun and forget about problems and the real world? Or am I getting this wrong?
The cinematography was not only highly experimental but also very tricky to create. There were flips, swirls, turns, vertical shots and anything else that comes to mind. The camera was all the time in motion. Gaspar plays with the movements, creating a vertigo of shots being uncommon but fitting Climax’s plot just right. Moreover, the whole building was shown the way I could sense where I was and I could easily get from one room to another. Skills of Benoît Debie are undeniable. He’s been responsible for the camera for most popular Noé’s films and also another fantastic independent film this year “Sisters Brothers”.
About the acting itself, it felt more like a documenting an actual conversation rather than skills. Except for Sofia Boutella, all the people were dancers. I understand this requirement for the initial sequence, but besides that, there was no need to use actual dancers. I can only assume that Noé tried to make it more authentic. So we have incredible dancing skills onscreen but then we also have sharp and jaggy dialogues about drastic measures. Well, who else could have thought that was a good idea?
The experimentation of the film structure was one of the proofs that nothing in there was in its place. ‘Climax’ starts, ends and continues with no pattern. Noé breaks whatever filmmaking rules he can. Final credits start the whole film and the title goes in just before hitting the lights. There’re also subtle (and not) quotes put here and there expressing the thoughts in the most peculiar way. The director himself admitted that the film felt more like organizing a party rather than filming. And I can admit it feels like it.
The meaning of the film might be “don’t do drugs” but you can interpret it in many ways. It could be a simple artsy idea or a party precaution. What Climax definitely was would be a statement. About what exactly? Frankly, no idea, get the director to tell me that.
Climax isn’t a good film for everyone, definitely not for sensitive people. But ones who seek strong expressions in cinema will not be disappointed. It is a great flow, electrifying tension and LSD delirium. Definitely an excellent choice to discuss… among your friends. Parents not recommended.