Film Review – ‘Climax’ (2018)

Release date: In UK cinemas from Friday 21st September

Living up to his reputation for daring, unsettling cinema and delivering a bold and unconventional film that constantly defies expectations, Gasper Noé’s ‘Climax’ is a deeply uncomfortable and unforgettable watch, driven by an accomplished cast dedicated to bringing his macabre vision to life. For those not yet familiar with his work, enter at your own risk. But for fans or movie buffs looking to be shocked, you won’t be disappointed.

Every once in a while a film comes along that’s difficult to place in a genre, something altogether strange and experimental that leaves you puzzling over just what it was you watched once it’s finished. Such is the impact of Climax, the latest offering from the controversial writer-director of films like Irreversible and Enter the Void.

The film follows a group of young French dancers who gather to rehearse together. Their performance merges into a night of celebration, but things take a turn for the worse when their Sangria is laced with LSD, plunging the participants into a nightmarish trip that exposes the dark underbelly of their dreams and desires.

Many have called Climax a horror (and it did premiere at this year’s FrightFest film festival) but it’s also full to the brim with music, dance and performance art, as Noé takes a long time letting us get to know his troupe of performers, led by recent Hollywood breakthrough star Sofia Boutella, whose mesmeric talents in Atomic Blonde and The Mummy are once again on show here. You get the sense that Boutella in particular is pushed to the very limit of her capabilities, as her character Selva is trapped in a space that becomes increasingly claustrophobic throughout.

The ensemble of supporting actors is also strong including a range of eccentric and larger than life characters, many of them taking on rather sinister personas once the terror really sets in. In the height of the drug trip, all of their inhibitions and true feelings come to the fore. Much in keeping with Noé’s track record, nothing is off limits and as a result taboos are broken throughout (in case anyone was still in doubt, Climax may not be a suitable date movie).

In many ways, Climax is a 90-minute test of endurance, a trip down the rabbit hole, and a journey into madness that reaches an overwhelming finale in which all the characters’ demons are placed on open display. The balletic camerawork and unrelenting score only serve to heighten the tension, driving viewers to their limits.

It all adds up to a film that’s uniquely disturbing, but likely to leave viewers exhilarated by its energy and confidence. It’s not for everyone, and would likely repulse many viewers due to its subject matter.

But for those interested in exploring the darker side of humanity and taking a trip into a hellish dreamscape, it’s worth a watch.

Climax may be an uncomfortable viewing experience, but it’s one that is also moving and provocative, most likely just as Noé intended.

Alex Straker

Musical, Horror, Drama | France, 2018 | 18 | Subtitles | 21st September 2018 (UK) | Arrow Video | Dir.Gaspar Noé | Sofia Boutella, Romain Guillermic, Souheila Yacoub,

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