Gaspar Noé is a French filmmaker known for making movies (which could be better described as psychedelic experiences) that frequently explore themes of life, death and desire. For example, his 2009 film Enter The Void shows the last few hours of a man’s life and then depicts what he sees after death as his soul travels into the afterlife. It is largely from his point of view, or with the camera looking at the back of his head, and it’s 2 hours and 40 minutes long.
However, his most famous and well-regarded film is Climax, which was released at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival where it received high praise and won the Art Cinema Award.The film features a dance troupe who is practising their routine and partying in an empty school, but when their sangria gets spiked with LSD, utter madness erupts.
The script for Climax is 5 pages long, as the cast were encouraged to improvise the majority of their performances as their characters slowly go insane. Climax has an unconventional opening, as it takes a long time for the movie to kick off, and it spends the first half of the runtime setting up what is to come.
After an ominous opening of a woman covered in blood struggling to walk through snow, and a montage of interviews with the characters explaining why they love to dance, there is a 5-minute tightly choreographed dance sequence followed by characters moving through the hall, talking to each other and setting up the various dynamics and relationships the characters have with each other. This 13-minute sequence is captured in a single take. No hidden cuts or transitions, and all with a constantly moving camera.
Climax 2018. Directed by Gaspar Noé.
This, however, is nothing compared to the 42-minute single-take sequence depicting the total breakdown of each character which takes up the majority of the latter half of the film.
Noé employs frequent use of a dynamic camera that follows a specific character positioned at eye level, immersing the audience in this character’s experiences and struggles, before the focus seamlessly shifts to someone else.
Climax explores themes of freedom and desire through various character interactions via grounded conversations at the beginning and brutal interactions and animalistic dancing in the latter half.
Desire is mostly expressed through characters wanting to enter sexual and romantic relationships with each other, and each character gives their take on how life should be lived. Whether it be the desire to marry, settle down and have children, or simply have meaningless sex and move on, Climax explores a whole spectrum of wants and needs.
The only cast member with any previous acting experience in Climax is Sofia Boutella, who plays Selva, the character with arguably the most screen time. Other than Boutella, the cast is made up entirely of professional dancers, which is surprising as the performances are all great.
Climax is a testament to chaos and disruption captured on film, and I cannot recommend the viewing experience enough.