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Film / Climax

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Climax is a Frenchnote  2018 psychological horror dance filmnote  by Gaspar Noé.

In 1996, a large group of young dancers is recruited by a mysterious company to star in a new production that will take modern French dance to the United States and beyond. After three days rehearsing a routine in a remote dance studio, the group celebrate by having a party, involving dancing, alcohol and drugs.

However, someone's spiked the sangria and when it kicks in, things start going to hell...

In textbook Noe fashion, Climax is a mix of vibrant, colourful visuals, beautiful choreography, horrifying plot developments and an oppressive soundscape, combining to make a nightmarish atmosphere and story.


This film provides examples of:

  • Adult Fear: Trying to protect your child, only to have your efforts result in their death.
  • Anything That Moves: A few of the male characters express their desire to have sex with all the girls in the troupe.
  • Big Fun: Daddy is a large, jovial man, deejaying for the group and happy to give out advice to its youngest member.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: Taylor is extremely protective of his sister Gazelle and gets uncomfortably close to his sister at points, especially during the opening interviews. He makes good on his attraction to her once the LSD kicks in, seducing her despite her saying it's wrong. It's ambiguous as to if he raped her come the morning, although his comment of 'don't tell Papa' implies something happened.
  • Bystander Syndrome: At one point the power goes out, signifying that Tito has touched the electrical cables and electrocuted himself. The dancers cheer, make arrangements to set up a boombox and continue partying while Emmanuelle is agonising over her now-dead son.
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  • Choreography Porn: The group dancing in this film is astounding.
  • Closed Circle: The heavy snow outside and the fact that Emmanuelle says she's booked a minibus for the following day suggests that even though they 'can' leave, the characters wouldn't get very far if they did.
  • Death of a Child:
    • It's kind of to be expected if you lock a young child in an electrical cupboard.
    • Possibly true of Lou's unborn baby as well, if her claims of being pregnant are true.
  • Driven to Suicide: Emmanuelle kills herself out of despair for losing the key for the room she locked Tito in, resulting in his death.
  • Driving Question: Who spiked the sangria? Psyche.
  • Dutch Angle: A Noe staple, once again used to disorientate and discomfort the viewer and emphasise the confusion and strangeness of the night.
  • Everybody Has Lots of Sex: Dialogue suggests that the group members are very promiscuous.
  • Everyone Is Bi: Most people are attracted to both sexes, likely leading to the trope above.
  • Fan Disservice: A beautiful woman taking a shower? Nice. A beautiful woman taking a shower to scrub off the blood of her friend who had only moments before starting slicing herself with a knife, sobbing all the while? Not so much.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • During the opening interviews, films and books including Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom, Un Chien Andalou and Suspiria (1977) surround the TV set, hinting at the events and atmosphere ahead for both the characters and the audience.
    • At one point, Psyche notes that she had a roommate that inserted drops of acid into his eyes. Guess what she does at the very end of the film?
      • The working title of this movie? Psyche.
  • Fun with Subtitles: If the French text appears upside down on screen, expect the translated subtitles to follow suit.
  • Genre-Busting: It's best described as a psychological horror dance mystery.
  • Groin Attack: Averted. One of David's attackers threatens to circumcise him as he lays unconscious on the floor, but chooses to draw a swastika on his forehead in lipstick instead.
  • Hell Is That Noise: The droning and booming soundtrack including Aphex Twin, Soft Cell et al. adds to the oppressive, hellish atmosphere of the complex. You'll never hear Daft Punk in the same way again.
  • A House Divided: Once it's revealed that the sangria has been spiked, the group begin viciously turning on anyone they find suspicious, resulting in people being mortally wounded or, in the case of Omar, killed.
  • Idiot Ball: Many characters hold it during the latter half of the film, especially Emmanuelle, who thinks locking her son in an electrical cupboard for his protection is a good idea. Justified in that being under the effects of LSD doesn't exactly grant you the best judgment.
  • Late to the Tragedy: The police arrive the morning after to survey the carnage that had taken place the night before.
  • Man on Fire: When one character discovers another has lied about running out of cocaine, snorting it beside a burning gas stove, she shoves her and sets her hair on fire. She guffaws as the girl screams in panic and agony.
  • Meaningful Name: Psyche. The final scene shows her with an LSD psychology book, implying that she spiked the sangria to see how the others would react.
  • Mood Whiplash: Ignoring the opening scene and the uneasy interviews that open the film, the rehearsal, dance party and character chatter is light-hearted and fun. It's only when Psyche wets herself on the dancefloor that things start to take a sinister turn.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Dom is last seen crying in a very desolate manner, which hints she may be regretting what she done over the course of the night (i.e knowingly kneeled and stomped on a pregnant woman's belly).
  • Once More, with Clarity!: The film opens with the chronological final image: a blood-stained Lou writhing in the snow. Come the end of the film, once all events have transpired, we see Lou staggering out of the school into the snow.
  • The Oner: Another Noe staple, the film is populated by long takes, once again adding to the unease and discomfort of both the characters and the viewers.
  • Random Events Plot: After the spiked sangria effects kick in, the story devolves into a sort of chaotic mess of events only loosely connected by location and characters.
  • The Reveal: The driving question of the film, both in-universe and for the viewer, is "Who spiked the sangria?" The last scene reveals it was Psyche.
  • Sickening "Crunch!": One of the dancers has contorting skills, and as the film progresses he pushes his body more and more to its limits, resulting in audible bone-cracking as his body shapes grow increasingly unnatural.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Gary Numan's somewhat upbeat synth rendition of Erik Satie's "Gymnopedie #1" contrasts heavily with the visuals it accompanies: Lou staggering through the snow, wailing in agony.
  • A Threesome Is Hot: David certainly thinks so.
  • Wall of Text: The opening credits are definitely this.
  • Wham Shot:
    • Dom kneeing then stamping a (possibly) pregnant Lou's stomach and potentially causing her to miscarry.
    • The film's final shot, featuring Psyche on her bed with an LSD psychology book, implying that she spiked the sangria.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Averted with Omar. After Dom kicks him out of the fire exit, he doesn't appear in the film again until we see his frozen corpse at the end.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: Downplayed example during the epilogue. The camera cuts to each individual's position in the morning, showing who they're with, what they're doing and if they survived the night or not.


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