Film Review: Climax


Climax , the winner of the 2018 Cannes Film Festival Art Cinema Award is Gaspar Noé’s fifth feature length film. With titles such asIrréversible (2002) and Enter the Void (2009) under the director’s belt I knew coming into this film that I needed to be prepared for some confrontational material. That most certainly was what I got.  

Climax is, most aptly put, an assault to the senses of the viewer. Purportedly based upon the true events of a French dance crew who, after their punch being spiked with LSD, descend into chaos and utter helplessness, constitutes an attempt at replicating the feeling of an acid trip on screen. Featuring the musical stylings of Daft Punk, Cerrone and Aphex Twin, the whole film is narrated by a thumping bass that slowly devolves to mirror the animalistic rhythm of the characters’ bodies.  

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This film is definitely not for the faint of heart. If you know Noé, you know his unflinching filmography of confrontational subject material, and this title, though markedly less graphic than his other works, does not stray too far from his repertoire. In the cinema, the audience gasped at the film’s most shocking moments, and I felt myself clenching the arms of my chair, wanting to look away.

When I left, I couldn’t help but feel disturbed, after watching what had felt like forty minutes straight worth of grotesque screaming and dancing at the conclusion of the film. Noé’s stylistic camera rolling, upside down and sideways shots deepened the sense of confusion and discomfort conveyed by the orgy of colours and sounds on screen.  


What Climax did remarkably well, was the balanced exploration and establishment of the twenty-five individual characters with their own storylines. The first thirty minutes is solely constituted of recorded tape interviews, dance performances and authentically scripted conversations featuring every character in the dance group, allowing an introduction to every personality.

The audience is fed morsels of information about the truth of every member of the group, which only makes it all the more compelling to follow their individual experiences. The talented and diverse cast that make up the dance group is without a doubt, the glue that provides the authenticity required for Noé’s text.

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This film is for Noé, a slightly more accessible work that might act for audiences as a stepping stone into his earlier, more intense feature films. Climax is a cinematographic triumph, and one that will bring Noé’s works to the attention of wider audiences.

However, this piece is not without flaws. Its storyline is remarkably exploratory and at times appears a little unfocused, understandably due to the trippy subject matter. Because of this, at times I was drawn to consider whether the content was graphic for the sake conveying the story, or just for the sake of being graphic. Without a doubt, Noé had a real vision for this movie, but whether it actually imparts any deeper meaning on the viewer beyond disconcertion and a fear of LSD is questionable.

Climax is a must-see on the big screen, not only because it is visually beautiful, but because in a cinema it might be a little harder to look away.


You can see Climax in Australian cinemas from December 6, 2018