Burning 35: Gaspar Noe’s CLIMAX - Subverting Desire


In the opening beat of the latest creation from French auteur Gaspar Noe, A bloodied, foreign body slithers across a sun soaked snowy ground while the end credits of the film begin to roll--less than 45 seconds into the film itself. At this point, the viewer must make amends with the reality that their perception of traditional narrative must be subverted in order to ingest the following 96 minutes of cinematic sensory overload. Movie fans who are familiar with Noe’s past efforts will come into CLIMAX thinking they have the power of familiarity on their side, but as he does time and time again, everything you have learned prior becomes destroyed and set ablaze.

Set within an undesignated year that we can only assume is the late 1990’s (Noe’s use of APHEX TWIN-WINDOWLICKER leads towards 1999) the film then dives into several minutes of the potential dance troupe members pleading their case to the heads of the operation, Selva and DJ Daddy, played respectively by the blazing Sofia Boutella and Kiddy Smile. Lining the sides of the VCR/TV hybrid are the VHS tapes of movies such as POSSESSION, SUSPIRIA, and UN CHIEN ANDALOU--this is where Noe continues to dare the viewer to recollect the events of these films and apply them to the context of what’s to come.

When the tape begins to white noise out, this is where the true horror of CLIMAX begins. Locked inside of a warehouse deep in the unknown snowy French wilderness, LSD makes its way into a circus sized bowl of sangria that lubricates the wheels of desire every member of the dance troupe has. Primordial yearnings rise to the surface level as each character makes their way to one side of the warehouse, ripping limbs in any direction they can, for their nightmare has only begun. It is not until their world is literally flipped upside down that solace sets in.

Without diving too deep into the mythos of Noe’s challenging effort, the technical mastery of the film shines through and can be appraised even by the most shocked individuals. Gruesome overhead shots dominate the frame as the dancers channel their primal desires with each swift movement of their limbs. Drum and bass occupy the soundscape of the film and for every blood curdling shriek there is a calming synth note to balance the terror.

CLIMAX transcends, subverts, and demolishes what it means to be a simple aural/visual sensory demonstration.

CLIMAX is currently in limited theatrical release with a VOD date that is TBA.