Spoilers might dance the night away.
Some films are not made to cater to its audience. That is going to act against me in this review, because in case you haven’t noticed I try to see how much I can recommend a movie to its intended target. When the intention of a film is to unsettle and disturb moviegoers you know the movie is going to fall into the WTF category. I’ve been exposed to more than a few features of this type via Montreal’s Fantasia Film Festival. It’s not my favourite, but I can’t deny it’s a bit of a guilty pleasure and an acquired taste. For the most part, I prefer watching movies that I enjoy but you gotta test your boundaries once in a while.
Director Gaspar Noé brings us a film of dancing and drug-induced insanity with Climax. The movie starts with literally one survivor walking and bleeding onto the snow and the final credits rolling. Yeah, I understand it’s trying to subvert the movie’s typical format but the credits are not really part of the narrative. Also, that ending scene and the starting credits rolling halfway through are really the only out-of-sequence parts. Everything else is really linear. I feel like if it doesn’t impact the narrative, moving the credits around like that feels tacked on more than anything else, but I was willing to give it a chance.
A group of young dancers have gathered together in a secluded place. They’ve just learned that they’re going to be casted on a tour that will take them to international destinations like the US. Most of them have never been out of France so they’re excited. They throw a final party with music and dancing. The dancing is highlighted on the first part of the film, obviously played up for the camera. The snack table has a large bowl of sangria, which is apparently excellent. As the night progresses and the dancing continues, it starts to become evident that the group has been drugged.
As everyone loses their inhibitions, their self-control and their restraint, things start spiralling out of control as madness seems to run rampant. Selva (Sofia Boutella) is trying to maintain some level of control, while David (Romain Guillermic) tries to have sex with every woman he sees. As paranoia sets in, the group throws Omar (Adrien Sissoko) out in the cold, suspecting him because he was sober. Things go from bad to worse as Lou (Souheila Yacoub) confides to Selva she’s avoid drinking because she’s pregnant.
The plot devolves into crazy drugged up antics as everyone experiences their own hallucination. To its credit, the movie never tries to materialize their nightmares but rather uses long takes and subtle zooms combined with ambient lighting as the camera follows characters moving from the dance hall to the bedrooms. This does mean that explanations and narrative take a backseat to just experiencing the film as if it were a trip. At some point, it’s obvious the movie itself seems to be affected as the last act has the camera completely upside down, with all semblance of balance lost never to be recovered.
If you’re expecting controversy, it is present but not blatantly shown. What I mean is that the film is tame in the way that it conveys sex, drugs, incest and violence. It’s lot more implied than explicit. There’s a bit of violence and barely a hint of nudity. It’s almost a PG film, except some deaths are gruesome because of their subject more than their graphicness (a kid death’s that we never witness, but we know when it happens, is particularly chilling). However, it never seems like the film is really taking us anywhere. The film does reveal who spiked the sangria with LSD, not that it really seems to matter in the end. The best the movie has going for it seems to be the dancing and the techno music.
Perhaps lightly recommended for the WTF category fans, although I have to say they probably have seen a lot of things with a bigger kick on the shock factor. On the other hand, it’s not easy enough for the casual moviegoer. The lack of an engaging narrative prevents me from recommending it to genre film enthusiasts in general because frankly, the resolution is not very satisfactory. The end is neither orgasmic nor anti-orgasmic, it’s more like the feeling that finally the writhing and the shaking has stopped and we can turn off the lights and get some rest.
That will do for now.