Climax and Other Similar Musicals

Screened at the Director’s Fortnight at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, Climax is Gaspar Noé’s latest film – a controversial love-or-hate director who gave us an incredible body of work formed by films such as Irreversible, Enter the Void and Love. After having the opportunity to watch Climax, I did not only feel like I’ve come out of a nightmare but also felt somewhat inspired to talk about similar movies that tackle themes such as electronic music, disorder and chaos. Not only that, but it’s also a space for me to share my thoughts on Gaspar Noé’s latest film as well.


“Climax (2018)” by Gaspar Noé

Several dancers are interviewed for a casting whose purpose is not exactly mentioned. They talk about what dance means to them, if they have ever taken any drugs and if they are okay with experimenting new stuff. Soon we see all of them partying in what appears to be the first night of rehearsal. They seem to know very little about each other and as the night progress, they start to realize something has been put on their drink, making them start to hallucinate and a trip to hell begins. 

For those who don’t know Gaspar Noé, sex, drugs, and horror are constant themes on his films. Unlike his previous works, however, he masters the sensation of claustrophobia and horror by literally showing us several people going crazy and committing terrible acts. If not terrible, Noé knows how to capture their despair and gives us several scenes that can be very similar to Isabelle Adjani in Posession, which curiously enough, is shown in a pile of video-tapes in the beginning of the film. After all, Gaspar Noé is interested in provoking the audience. If before he did it by raping women and making extreme close-ups of cum-shots in 3D, here he is a little more subtle but just as powerful as ever.

The music is also extremely important in the film, as it’s being played throughout the entire 93 minutes of the movie, resulting in a nightmarish musical where we don’t know exactly what is happening. His signature style is once more present with a camera that is constantly on the move, with just a few cuts, going upside down in a palette of colors formed by red, green and yellow. The actors are simply amazing and in many parts of the movie you will be asking yourself how did they do what they did. Sometimes showing people going insane in the middle of a strobe is more disturbing that watching someone decapitating a person. And more disturbing than that is the fact Climax is an amazing movie to watch that will make you feel like you are also going crazy with them.

But what other movies can be seen as a similar one?


“All These Sleepless Nights (2016)” by Michael Marczak

A movie that is not exactly similar to Climax but I felt a strong connection is the documentary All These Sleepless Nights. I’m not sure if I can call it a documentary since fiction and reality are always being tested on-screen with many of the scenes being improved. The film focuses on the relationship of two friends who are exploring their identity through the streets and parties of Moscow. 

Instead of creating a hype and stylish movie, Michal Marczak makes a very subtle film that resembles Terrence Malick’s body of work by creating a very loose line of narrative and focusing on the little special details like a walk on the park, friends drinking and the mood that sets the scenes. Is a mixture of a musical with a documentary shot in a beautiful, touching and poetic way that will make you feel like living inside of this film. It’s kind of a coming of age for people in their twenties. Not mentioning the soundtrack is not only incredible but a great character in the film. 


“Eden (2014)” by Mia Hansen Løve

Unlike Climax and All These Sleepless Nights, Eden is more of a natural film without excesses. However, the themes of music and loneliness are present throughout Mia Hansen Løve’s entire work by portraying the rise of the electronic music in France during the early 90s – where bands such as Daft Punk were formed – and its fall by the end of 2010.

With a very realistic and subtle approach, Eden is a 130-minute odyssey about the search of a feeling and a state of mind in our modern world and the difficulties that we go through to achieve it. The sacrifices and the relationship with the people we love. For a celebratory theme, Eden is kind of a sad film, but never a bad one. With music being one of its main characters, it was impossible for me not to remember about it.


“A Cross the Universe (2008)” by Romain Gavras

Being a documentary about one of my favorite bands of all times, A Cross the Universe is a film by Romain Gavras about the North American tour of the French band Justice. With a very raw and aggressive mise en scene, the director of video clips of M.I.A and Justice itself delivers a stylish and crazy approach to the French band’s adventures throughout the United States while we listen to their amazing songs that formed the album Cross.

With only 65 minutes, A Cross the Universe focuses on the music the band creates and the relationship with the audience while it cuts back from random moments of the band in the trailer, at parties and visiting different cities. For those who have seen the video-clip Stress by Justice, which is also directed by Gavras, you will see some similarities between the two works. With a very powerful music and editing, A Cross the Universe may not be as crazy as Climax but it has definitely a punch of inspiration from the New French Extremity where both Gaspar and Gavras seem to get their references from.


“Victoria (2015)” by Sebastian Schipper

Being one of the most important films of this decade in my opinion, Victoria is a hypnotic 140-minute film made of a single continuous take. Starting off inside of a club in Berlin, the film follows the character of Victoria who befriends some people who are about to do a certain job. When she is asked to be the driver for them, things go south and they are forced to rob a bank.

You must be wondering what this film has to do with Climax, but being a single shot film set in Berlin where music is constantly a character, you’ll realize Victoria has many connections with Gaspar Noé’s film, especially for the despair portrayed in the end, which results in a horror movie itself. The way Sebastian Schipper builds his film is so unique and wonderful that the film won an Outstanding Artistic Contribution for Cinematography Award at Berlin Film Festival. Not mentioning the amazing score composed by Nils Frahm.


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