Jason Arment reviews the film Climax. This movie may start with a dance-off, but you better be prepared.
What I read of Climax before my viewing didn’t tell me much besides alluding to an experience akin to tumbling through a dryer; somehow I didn’t know it’s Gaspar Noé, the same man who brought the world extreme, unforgettable brutality in Irréversible.
When I showed up, far from sober, I thought I was ready. What can they show me that I haven’t seen? If you are of the same mind, Climax is the movie for you. However, if you’re what I keep referring to in my movie reviews as a “normal person,” this movie may not be for you. In fact, if you’re the sort of person who could use a trigger warning for anything, you need to know that this film is Trigger Town, Population: You.
The first thing that struck me about the film—which was made in association with big hitters like studio A24 and VICE—was how a skinhead is one of the characters. No, I’m not talking about any white power ideologues. I don’t really have time to go into how not all skinheads are racist, and in fact there is a case to be made that any racist can’t really be a skinhead (The New York Times has a piece about it, and I’ve written about it in the past). Trotting out an oi! boy is a cute way to signal you’re hip, but initially it put me off. I planned on avoiding the subject in this review, but I wasn’t left with a choice when it becomes a thing in the movie.
If you’ve never been dosed with a decent amount of acid (say, half a strip), just know this movie nails the fear and confusion.
I can’t really talk specifics. But what I can say is that there is sex, drugs, rock ’n’ roll, dancing, suicide, self-harm, child abuse, and murder. If you’ve never been dosed with a decent amount of acid (say, half a strip), just know this movie nails the fear and confusion. In fact, the more I watched, the more I realized the film was an allegory of how music scenes implode and become scary places. It is interesting since I recently finished viewing the much lauded (or scorned) Lords of Chaos which showed the howling and sometimes disturbing birth of black metal.
Climax has been called experimental, but in reality the video for Prodigy’s “Smack My Bitch Up” has been around for a while. I’m not saying that the film doesn’t take it to a whole other level, or maybe I should say stoop to yet unknown lows, but to say it’s “experimental” smacks of yellow journalism. Climax is worth the money to watch it, but you may be tempted to leave during the first scenes where it’s just a dance-off movie. Wait it out, because, if you leave, it should be after you’ve become a member of Trigger Town.
Climax being called pretentious is a misunderstanding of what’s happening. Far from any intellectual pretense, this film is primal in nature—the urge to hurt—and since the credits roll at the beginning, the film simply cuts to blackness at the end. The audience is left sitting silently together in the dark with no explanations or reference to a smarter purpose than punching us in the throat. But, make no mistake, there is a lot happening.
If you aren’t scared of what can happen during the film-viewing experience, it’s a no-brainer to see this.