Climax (2018) by Gaspar Noé
Review by Zach Dennis
I won’t pretend to be some expert on Gaspar Noé prior to this movie, mainly because this is my first of his movie I’ve seen. Starting with the title, you’re provoked as Climax holds much more punch than Enter the Void or Love as, in this sense, it works as a verb — a way you could describe the entire film also.
Taking place in an abandoned warehouse in Berlin in the 1990s, Climax follows a troupe of dancers who have been rehearsing for a show over the course of three days and are celebrating the end of rehearsals with a party. The party opens with a run through of the performance, giving a sense of the use of bodies and movement, which will become key to understanding and immersing yourself in the film.
Noe seems to be tapping into the primal, undefined stages of cinema as the mystical flow of the dancing evokes images of the Lumiere’s Serpentine Woman or some of the characters of Mélies. As the night moves along, everyone realizes that something is happening to them (allegedly someone spiked the punch) and the descent into hell begins.
This is probably the best way to describe Climax as less of a traditional narrative exercise and more of a use of body and movement as character. We are introduced to each of the dance troupe members at the beginning of the film in documentary interview style as they answer questions about themselves, their sex lives, their vices and more, but that doesn’t tell us anything because once the music begins and movement takes over, their true selves are revealed.
Many have dubbed this as a dance party orgy where it begins with dance and ends with everyone have sex with one another, but that’s not necessarily the case. While many characters either segway off for intercourse, most of the actual innuendo is in the lead-up conversation or just in the suggestion.
The true eroticism comes from the infatuation with the body that Noé ramps up, watching as people contort, move and pulse in a way that seems inhuman. Climax offers no recourse or answer to the chaos, it just asks you to try to survive — something members of the audience in my screening failed to do.