There are many characters in Climax and they are all presented as caricatures with shades of a third-dimension. This is totally fine. Genre fiction tends to present caricatures over characters, and, like in the case of Ant Man, as long as that caricature is used to teach the audience something about humanity, it’s a winner. Unfortunately, Climax teaches little, and what it teaches is far from interesting or insightful.
A great number of unpleasant things are shown in Climax. The audience sees knife wounds and burning flesh, they hear men taunt a woman telling her that they will force her to abort, and Gaspar injects statements such as “Death is a wonderful experience” (or words to that effect) into the movie. The audience are also shown a number of uncomfortable, though not necessarily horrible, things: women simulating masturbation while tripping, others having sex in the middle of a dance floor, the emotional weight of rejection, and more. However, none of these things are shown with any real rhyme or reason other than the people committing all these acts are on drugs.
It seems that the core message of Climax is little more than “people be weird,” but doesn’t show them being weird in any novel or interesting way. It’s totally voyeuristic; akin to going through your Facebook feed. You’ll see happy couples, sad couples, violence, nudity, pseudo-philosophical nonsense, political garble. You know what it’s like. What you don’t get with a Facebook feed is the reason behind all these actions and statement, though you can take an educated guess. You don’t see what motivates people, and therefore you don’t learn anything other than “these things happen”. Climax is no different. All the character’s motivations can be guessed from context, and don’t offer anything new to the audience. One character is a womaniser, but we don’t find out why, and the outcome of his actions is horribly predictable. Another is a young gay man desperately looking for love, which constantly eludes him, and when it once again passes him by, he gets upset. What insight! To the film’s credit, there are a couple of story arcs that have less than predictable endings, but they still fail to say anything interesting.
I think the best way to describe Climax is as a horror equivalent of observational comedy. It points out things that happen in the world, and rather than making a mockery of those things, highlights their disgustingness. This is something Giallo films and splatter-fests has been doing for years, and this film offers nothing new in that regard. It doesn’t even have the good grace of breaking new boundaries when it comes to what can be shown on screen.
Finally, on top off all of this, Climax is a dreadful bore. The dance routines and conversations far outstay their welcome, and by the end, you still don’t care for anyone. You learn nothing new, you don’t have fun, and you’re left wondering “What’s the point?” I guess if you really like dance there’s something to get out of this film, but otherwise I’d just stick to reading the news.
To conclude, Climax’s only artistic achievement is its uncomfortable aesthetic, which, to be fair, does what it does very well, and probably explains why so many reviewers have hailed this film as a great piece of art. But it isn’t entertaining, it doesn’t break boundaries, and most importantly, it doesn’t offer any insight into human nature that you couldn’t get from a fleeting glance at a social media feed. Thus, I brand Climax as a pseudo-intellectual piece of work that hides its lack of insight behind an artsy aesthetic.
So, fans of Gaspar Noé, please tell me why I didn’t understand Climax. I can’t wait.
SEE ALSO: Read our review of Climax here
James Turner is a writer and musician based in Sheffield. You can follow him on Twitter @JTAuthor