“I must be doing something wrong…I have to take a long holiday and rethink my career.” Gaspar Noé jokes on the universal acclaim of Climax, and the fact that less audience walked out of the screening compared to his other films. I have failed to despise the film, in fact I was so amazed that I wished I were the brain behind it. Let me tell you why.
Why is Climax so good?
1. Because it breaks all rules since the very beginning. The film begins from the end, with credits and all. It begins as one of the dancers run away until she collapses to resemble a snow angel. If you are familiar with Gaspar Noé’s work, you must know that the camera doesn’t follow the rules which we are used to, and is almost as another character, floating from one event to the next. In the opening scene, normally the camera would follow the dancer from behind and the dancer would run up the frame, but here it is reversed that she runs downwards. The bird’s eye view shot distorts our perception, and together with the twisting and floating shots, Climax is a visual experience than simply a film.
2. There are strong references to what Noé was inspired by. Through the interviews, we get to know the dancers and their biggest passions and fears; and through the meticulously selected VHS tapes and books, we are foreshadowed on the upcoming nightmare. There is Suspiria, hinting darkness induced dance. There is Possession by Zulawski, and the striking subway scene is later restaged. There is Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome, in which the “pleasure dome” is rendered both as prison and celebration. Along many other, there is Suicide, L’Aventure Hippie, Un Chien Andalou, Schizophrenia, and with references to Buñuel and Nietzche; for the sophisticated eye, Noé put everything upfront.
3. Highly irritating dialogues are followed by mesmerizing dances. The cast is of not actors but professional dancers, whose performances are truly captivating. When Selva says that they performed pretty well for just 3 days of rehearsal, she means it. The choreographer Nina McNeely admits: “Since this opening dance needed to be a six-minute single take there were a lot of counts and cues to remember. We had three days of rehearsals total and not all of the dancers were there.” It is so visually pleasing that you know something’s not adding up.
4. But the film hadn’t started yet!! It was all just the prologue. It’s genius. From this point, the Gaspar Noé film that we were craving for begins. And everything goes to hell.
5. Even though the film is nothing like we have ever seen before, it still has a reference to Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. Remember that the famous shower scene ends as we see the water spirally running down the drain, followed by Marion’s dead blue eyes, also shot through the spiral movement of the camera. Notice that Climax ends with the same spiral shot of blue eyes of a woman with short blond hair, who is indeed called Psyche. This time, this woman is not the victim but the villain, and the doors of her perception are wide open.
PS: The film has a lot to say besides what all the twisted minds are capable of doing on a bad trip. The only other person to become as insane as the drugged dancers is a mother who has just lost her unborn child. Also, drug is the root of all evil. Obviously.