A true story of a 90s dance troupe having a post-rehearsal party allegedly inspires Gaspar Noé’s Climax. The party gradually descends into twisted, nightmarish hysteria as a result of LSD-spiked sangria. The film opens with a series of interviews with the dancers, speaking about their passions, ambitions, and fears. This moment foreshadows much of the horror to come. We are then treated to a visually stimulating and incredibly well-choreographed dance sequence, followed by a series of snippets from conversations between several characters. This all serves as an effective calm-before-the-storm for the film, with the dance sequence in particular being a stand-out moment in the film that had me hooked within the first ten minutes.
However, I did find one conversation, where two male dancers discuss their intentions to have sex with one of the female dancers, went on for far too long. Whilst it began as effective characterisation, it eventually came across as though Noé was simply trying to fit as much crude dialogue as he could in a single scene, ultimately creating the only moment in the film where I felt the pace dropped.
Other than the aforementioned scene, the pace in this film was its strongest factor. As Noé masterfully makes use of tracking shots to keep the audience constantly involved in the insanity unravelling on screen, the use of sound extenuates this insanity. In quieter scenes of characters trying to discuss solutions to their predicament, background noises of terrified screaming and maniacal laughter are clearly audible. Additionally, what transpires on screen is timed perfectly with the music playing – the use of ‘Windowlicker’ by Aphex Twin serves as a personal high-point of the film for me. The soundtrack is an auditory treat, featuring the likes of Daft Punk, The Rolling Stones, and Gary Numan.
The performances in the film are strong, with Sofia Boutella as Selva, the closest thing to a protagonist in the story, being particularly impressive. She perfectly conveys the sheer terror she is experiencing despite the fact that the audience cannot actually see whatever disturbing hallucinations she may be witnessing. Child-actor Vince Galliot Cumant deserves praise as Tito: having a likable child mixed up in the horror gave the film an entirely new dimension of suspense. Whilst I personally did not find this film to be as disturbing as some of Noé’s other works, the inclusion of this character was certainly the most distressing part of the film. Cumant’s convincing performance largely helped the disturbing moments.
Climax is far from an easy watch, and I would not recommend it to everyone. However, if you have a strong stomach and are a fan of horror there is a lot to love here. Whilst never quite reaching the heights of his ambitious 2009 psychedelic masterpiece Enter the Void, Climax may be Noé’s most tightly constructed film yet. It is also perhaps my favourite film of the year so far. But maybe that says more about me than the film.
Climax was released in the UK on the 21st September and is currently playing at HOME in Manchester.