Is Climax Worth Your Time?

Climax is one of the most memorable theater going experiences audiences will have for a long while!

Climax is one of the most genuinely frightening and haunting experiences I have ever had in my life.  This film deeply troubled and disturbed me on a level I have never really experienced with a film before.  This is an Arthouse French Extremist film directed by famous French filmmaker Gaspar Noe`.  Hist two most well-known films are Irreversible (2002) and Enter the Void (2009).  These two films are known for depicting intense sequences of graphic violence or intense, psychedelic drug trips.  Now, I must confess that I am new when it comes to the works of Gaspar Noe`.  Climax is the only film of his I have seen so far.  I was inclined to check this film out, however, because of a very positive review published by YouTuber Adum Johnson of “YourMovieSucksdotOrg” who gave this film a glowing review and declared it the best film of 2018. Even though the film disturbed me on a level that I have never experienced before, does that mean this film is at least well-made?

Climax tells the story of a school of dancers that all share a passion and love of dancing together as indicated by the audition tapes shown of each of the characters. 

The film then starts off as they rehearse an extremely elaborate and seemingly very well-choreographed dance of theirs that lasts in the film for about six minutes and is captured in one shot.  They find themselves into some trouble, however, as they attend an after party in which most of the troupe accidentally drinks some sangria that was spiked with LSD.  It is then from this point that the film turns into an absolute nightmare. We never see what the dancers are hallucinating, only their reactions, and the way this affects everyone around them.

This is the opening dance sequence to this film that is almost six minutes long and done in only one shot

Despite this film being one of the most challenging viewing experiences, I still cannot deny the incredible craft that is on display.

This is not a film I have any desire to watch again.  In fact, I feel this film can only truly be described as a hellish nightmare, and it is certainly not for everyone.  Events occur in this film that are so unbelievably troubling, it makes this a challenging watch.  With that being said, the cinematography on display is extremely impressive.  The dance sequences that occur in this film are all captured in one continuous shot which makes them so impressive to watch. What’s interesting, however, is that these long takes aren’t exclusive to dance sequences.  Whenever the dancers try to relieve themselves of the horrors of their intense drug trip, the camera will often linger and follow them around the dance studio.  These shots will oftentimes last up to fifteen minutes.  The lighting and the music that accompany these scenes as well is equally impressive.  The film will often present contrasting harsh tones of either bright neon lights and decorations, or incredibly boring and stale brown dance studio floors.  And finally, the score for this film was woven into the narrative, as it was presented as the music the DJ was playing for the dancers during rehearsal and at the after party.  Overall, the score was very fun and memorable.

*SPOILERS AHEAD* DON’T READ THIS NEXT SECTION IF YOU DON’T WANT TO SPOIL CLIMAX!

Now I would like to discuss some of the most horrific moments that occur throughout the film.  So, after the dance sequence occurs and the troupe drinks the sangria, the party starts, and the opening credits roll.  And if you’re wondering why I am only mentioning this now, it’s because the credits for this film start at about thirty to forty five minutes into this movie. 

What’s more is that they are presented in a very similar flashy style to that of Enter the Void.  After the credits roll, dancers become terrified when they realize that they are starting to experience a horrible psychedelic trip.  The teacher of this school, who has a young son who can’t be more than seven years old, accidentally drinks some of the sangria and begins to start hallucinating himself.  This worries his mother who is also now high on LSD and she decides to lock in in the electrical room to keep him away from the other dancers.  Although a horrible move, these actions are somewhat justified upon remembering that they are all high on LSD.  As the dancers begin to figure out who is the person who spiked the LSD, they try to find other dancers who did not drink any sangria at all.  They find one dancer who did not drink any, but the reason is still unclear and unknown.  That’s all the convincing they need however, to decide to throw him out into the snow locking him outside for the night.  They find another one of the dancers who did not drink any since she is pregnant.  The dancers do not believe her that she is pregnant though and they start kicking her stomach and beating her to the ground.  They eventually convince her to punch her own stomach, effectively aborting her own baby and causing a miscarriage.  The camera then lingers back to one of the main dancers, played by Sofia Boutella, lying near the door where the little boy is screaming and crying as he tries to escape the electrical room.  As the dancer tries to get the teacher to let him out, all the electricity goes off and the screaming suddenly stops.  Everyone now realizes that the little boy has accidentally electrocuted himself in the room.  The teacher screams and cries as she realizes she has accidentally killed her son.  The main dancer mentioned before is raped by another female dancer, a brother and sister pair of twins accidentally sleep together, and the final sequence during the party consists of everyone either having sex or convulsing on the floor.  The shot is presented upside down so the floor is on the top of the frame and the actors on the floor are on the bottom of the frame.  After this, we find out one of the separate female dancers spiked the sangria with LSD as we find her bag is full of cartons LSD and they even shows her taking some LSD eye drops herself.  Further, the dancer thrown into the snow has frozen to death outside, and the teacher has slit her wrists to mourn the loss of her son.

Although Climax is a really well made film, should you still see it though?

Climax is a film that is designed and created to intentionally make you extremely uncomfortable and polarize audiences who view it.  Many critics have pointed out, and I will follow suit in saying that audiences will either absolutely love or absolutely hate this film.  In all honesty, however, I’m not sure how I truly feel about this movie.  I acknowledge that what Gaspar Noe` has done with his directing and cinematography is near groundbreaking; Simultaneously, I’ll acknowledge that I was absolutely miserable while viewing the film.  Although this was intentional, it really decreased the “re-watch-ability” factor for me which I feel is crucial for any film.  I recommend this film the most to audience members who are looking for something unique and unlike anything they’ve ever seen before.  I understand the current landscape of films nowadays is super hero movies and Disney remakes, so this is definitely a nice change of pace from that.  However, the film is still so miserable that I think this might be too far for even the most seasoned audience members who want some more creativity in their films.  Here’s what I will say though: If what I have described to you sounds crazy enough that you feel the need to watch it, you should do exactly that.  For me, I acknowledge this is usually not a film I would watch, but I wanted to challenge myself.  If you’re not into disturbing visceral experiences like this, don’t watch it.  This will give even the bravest film viewers nightmares and may likely leave you in a bad head space for the next day or two, as it did with me.  I can’t really classify this movie as good or bad, but rather just disturbing.  For me, this was a masterfully made film that upset me greatly, which is why I’m glad I watched it, but I never want to watch it again.

Written by: Christian Scognamillo

Christian Scognamillo