It has been two days since I first watched Gaspar Noe’s new film, Climax, and to say the least, I am still feeling slightly shocked. This film was by far one of the most artistically inducing, mentally shocking and well-rounded films to hit cinema in the past five years.
This psychological horror/dramatic mystery invites its audience into a satanic experience in the most artistic way possible. The film was nominated for many awards across France and won a series of awards within film festivals, including the “Best European Fantastic Feature Film/Best Feature Film” at the Neuchatel International Fantastic Film Festival, Cannes’ “2018 Directors’,” Fortnight’s biggest prize, the “Art Cinema Award” and “Best Film” at the Catalonian International Film Festival.
This A24 film collaborated with big names in the art film community such as Vice Films and Arrow Films. Many well-known artists in the electronic/techno music scene also worked on the soundtrack of the film, including Aphex Twin, Wild Planet and Soft Cell. All of them came together to enhance the already-enchanting shooting, mixing and editing of the film to create this masterpiece.
“Climax” is about a french dance troupe in the ’90s rehearsing at an abandoned school before their final night of a world tour. After a quick dance rehearsal, the troupe begins to celebrate their last night with copious drinking and dancing to techno music. Halfway through the party, everyone starts to feel weird and soon realizes that someone had spiked the sangria with LSD. Each individual begins to spiral into a state of mania as hellish events unfold around them. Some are shown having the time of their lives, reacting very well to the drug, while most embark on terrifying trips that drive them insane.
Although the film takes time to explore each character, the one that seems to be the focal point of the movie is Selva, played by Sofia Boutella. As the choreographer, she plays a minor leadership role to the troupe. Following her discovery of the LSD in the sangria, Selva spends the entire movie trying to mitigate the situation and help her peers out. Unfortunately, she too loses her mind. Her character stands out amongst the rest because she is the only one who keeps herself from harming others physically and psychologically.
The film uses unique ways of shooting scenes, such as spinning the camera to distort the viewer’s balance, shooting scenes from an aerial point of view and exaggerating light and color schemes in order to make the audience feel certain emotions. It felt as though in the editing room, the order of each scene was purposely shuffled, including the credits. In short, the movie forces you to feel as though you are tripping with the characters, not through showing exactly what they see, but by seeing everything from the point of view of a fly on the wall unaffected by the drugs.
Some have pointed out that there are many alternative interpretations within each piece of the film. The movie also alludes to various biblical stories through the actions the group takes collectively. A character in the movie even points out that there are crosses within each room and that there are satanic vibes coming from the school itself. The entire rest of the movie from the middle on is shot in a red-green light that resembles hell. Alternatively, the entire movie could be explained within the short dance that occurs at the beginning of the movie. The idea in this argument is that each character’s overall arc is demonstrated within this dance.
Whatever meaning you may find in the film, there is no doubt that some messages and foreshadowings are constantly, and subtly, being thrown at the audience throughout. The cast, especially Boutella, fully deserve awards for their acting and dedication to fit their characters. Each actor did a phenomenal job in taking specific traits of their character and either warping or exaggerating them once embarking on the LSD trip.
As much as I enjoyed this film, it cannot be considered an accurate representation of the effects of LSD. As a person who has never done LSD, I saw the film as a lesson. When put in the wrong environment with the wrong people, partaking in any form of intoxication, whether by accident or on purpose, can lead to upsetting, even horrific, events, especially without having someone there to help you.
Even though the film doesn’t represent drug consumption as accurately as it could have, I still believe it to be one of the most thrilling, incredibly shocking horror and mystery films. If you are a lover of psychological horror, “Climax” is an intricate, aesthetically pleasing, modern-indie film that incorporates dancing and good music. It is a must-watch.