A travelling dance troupe prepare for an international trip, but as they relax and celebrate their hard work it becomes apparent that their sangria is spiked with LSD. As the night progresses, reality begins to crumble for the dancers, and buried disputes and hidden desires lurch to the surface. Trapped within the walls of an old school, they must survive both their own deepest fears and the madness of others.
With its relatively slight plot and loose characterisation Climax is a film that is reliant on its experiential focus to get it across the line. Fortunately with a master of shock like Gaspar Noé (Irreversible) at the helm, it is a film that leaves the audience winded – from the frenetic dance, the stunning visuals and the harrowing submersion in the drug fuelled hell that the troupe is plunged into. Relax into this strongly stylish piece and by the end of the film you feel drained, one minute laughing and enjoying the cast of charismatic and talented characters, the next plunged into a dark orgy of madness. In many ways Climax is more of a spiritual successor to the original Suspira than the remake released this year, reliant on the music and stylistic elements over a complex plot to deliver delightful agonies.
Movement is a strong component to this, with the camera usually set adrift to capture the action, and to follow the various characters through events. Noe’s structure is interesting here, often reliant on long sequences tracking the character through one continuous take. The motion of the camera here is as important as the choreography of the dancers, as it swoops in, or tilts its axis with a practiced fluidity. Those movements and the bright colour pallet of the film create a joyous revelry of dance, then focus on increasingly unsettled disassociation from reality as events descend to insane orgiastic violence.
It results in an emotional gut punch, a wild ride that shifts through a Wonka-like world of drugs and 90s music into something akin to Tarantino adapting Dante’s Inferno. As an experience Climax is exhilarating and terrifying in equal measure, and that is something we should demand from our cinema.