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

Living with Hope: experimental theater

The San Diego State theater department recently teamed up with Playwrights Project to stage “Living with Hope” in SDSU’s experimental theater from March 16-19. The performance consisted of two short plays: Mabelle Reynoso’s “Other People’s Kids” followed by Out of the Yard Playwrights’ “Finding Our Way.” Both plays centered on the cycle and struggles of addiction.

The first play was prefaced by a series of abstract and disturbing images, such as a detailed drawing of the Grim Reaper, projected onto the stage’s backdrop. The images were adorned with provoking phrases like, “Just another hit… euphoria setting in… lifeless here I die,” and “I did things no girl should dare.”

Photo by Julianna Ress.

“Other People’s Kids” featured interconnected stories related to meth use. Destiny Girley and Nick Sandoval played Gaby and Jesse, a young couple expecting a child. Gaby is an ex-meth user while Jesse is still using and selling, which leads to abusive behavior toward Gaby. Gaby attempts to get her life together for their child, and ultimately their breakup. Jake and Gaby’s story realistically displayed the pitfalls and manipulation that come from meth use and abusive relationships.

Alex DeMarco played Patty, mother to Brown University-bound teen daughter Mackenzie, played by Paige Jensen. Mackenzie, while an exceptional student, is a social outcast due to her fierce academic dedication. She turns to drugs looking for a feeling of normalcy. Obtaining meth through Jesse, she sacrifices her health and college plans because of the drugs, much to Patty’s dismay. Mackenzie’s story ends somewhat unresolved, as it remains unknown if she recovers from her addiction. However, amidst Patty’s disgust at what her daughter has become, she realizes that Mackenzie is still human and is suffering from a disease. The ambiguity of Mackenzie’s character arc reflects the uncertainties faced by addicts’ families – will she recover? Will she die? Will she spend her entire life on the streets? Mackenzie and Patty’s relationship was a heartbreaking and accurate display of the struggle to keep hope alive when parenting an addict.

“Finding Our Way” began immediately after the final scene of “Other People’s Kids” and was a much more abstract look at addiction. The play featured several reenactments of the characters’ first time using various drugs due to peer pressure, low self-esteem and curiosity. The most powerful scene was when a mother came home with a man, both clearly intoxicated, and proceeded to fight right in front of her daughter while three other characters attempted to shield the daughters’ eyes.

“Finding Our Way” stressed that there are better ways to treat addicts than incarceration, such as rehabilitation centers, therapy and meditation. The play stood firmly against jail time for drug-users, since those laws affect the families of addicts arguably more so than the addicts themselves.

The play additionally featured “addiction” personified, who goaded the other characters into doing drugs to attempt to catch the feelings they constantly chase. The characters would fall at the touch of the “addiction” character, depicting the immense power addiction has over their lives.

The performance as a whole portrayed addiction in two wildly different ways. “Other People’s Kids” presented the many lifestyles of drug addicts, emphasizing that drugs can find anyone. “Finding Our Way” offered a look into the addicts’ minds, and the options available and steps necessary to reach recovery. “Living with Hope” treated addiction effectively and realistically, and avoided going over the audience’s heads by being preachy or cheesy, as is often true of performances about drug addiction. The show was especially powerful and relevant to students, but the stories, as “Living with Hope” stressed, could relate to anyone.

Featured Image by Julianna Ress. 

Underappreciated Hardcore Band of the Week: My Heart To Fear

My Heart To Fear is a Christian metalcore band from Williamsport, Pennsylvania, as well as the the band that inspired this weekly article. They’ve released two albums, Into the Maelstorm and Algorithm and are currently signed to Solid State Records.

Very few bands have the ability to make me fall in love with their music instantly the way My Heart To Fear did. For most bands, I’ll lose interest quickly, unless they grow on me over time. However, after hearing, what I still think is their best song, 4th Dimensional Opera House, they quickly became a favorite of mine for the past year. It’s definitely accurate to say they’re a band that sticks out in a stale genre.

The first thing that stands out about My Heart To Fear might be their most dividing element. I’m talking about the vocals. I can understand if someone doesn’t like them because Trevor Pool does have an interesting vocal style, to say the least. Instead of trying to sound as heavy as possible, which he can do if Pack Up, We’re Moving is any indication, Pool’s screams are meant to be understood. This results in style that distinguishes him apart from every other band.

The second part of My Heart To Fear that stands out are the instruments and how they’re composed in their songs. Everything from the guitars, bass and drums are outstanding. However, what sets them from other talented bands is how they make them stand out. The guitars will usually be tapped quickly, but My Heart To Fear isn’t afraid of throwing a bass solo into a few songs. They also understand how to incorporate slow parts into songs, so the quick and heavy parts can be truly appreciated.

As far as they’re lyrics are considered, it”s more appropriate to call it poetry. They do have a Christian theme in their songs (worry not because songs like Angst and Blood Money do criticize some aspects of churches), but almost every song is thought provoking and brimming with passion and emotion. It’s an incredibly difficult to strike a balance of being heavily critical with just enough hope to keep the average person from being turned off. It’s safe to say My Heart To Fear is in the highest tier of metal song writers.

My Heart To Fear deserves way more recognition than what they currently have. Give them a like on their Facebook to help support them. I await with bated breath until I can see them in concert.