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Young dancers gather in a remote and empty school building to rehearse on a cold and wintry night. The all-night celebration soon turns into a hallucinatory nightmare when they learn that their sangria is laced with LSD. Climax is a 2018 psychological horror dance film directed, written and co-edited by Gaspar Noé. An international co-production between France and Belgium, the film takes place during Winter 1996 within a single building, and features a large ensemble cast of twenty-four (led by Sofia Boutella) portraying a French dance troupe throwing an after-party after a rehearsal; however, the celebrations take a darker turn when everyone becomes increasingly agitated and confused, and the group begins to suspect that their sangria has been laced with LSD.
Climax 2018 Story:
The film is notable for its unusual style and production, having been conceived and pre-produced in only four weeks and shot in chronological order in only 15 days: although Noé conceived the premise, the large majority of the film was unrehearsed on-the-spot improvisation by the cast, who was given no lines of dialogue beforehand and had an almost complete liberty as to where to take the story and characters. Climax also features unusual editing and cinematography choices, and includes several lengthy long takes, including one lasting over 42 minutes. The cast of the film consists almost exclusively of dancers who, aside from Boutella and Souheila Yacoub, had no previous acting experience.
Climax premiered on 10 May 2018 in the Directors’ Fortnight section at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, where it won the Art Cinema Award. It was theatrically released in France on 19 September 2018 and in Belgium on 21 November 2018. The film received positive reviews, with many critics praising its direction, cinematography, soundtrack, choreography, and performances, although some criticized its violence and perceived lack of story.
The film opens with Lou, one of the members of the troupe, bloody and crawling though the snow. After the end credits roll, it depicts a series of audition tapes, in which choreographer Selva and DJ Daddy interview potential future members of a dance troupe they are creating. They discuss topics like dance, fears, relationships, sex and drug experiences. Later in an abandoned school, the collected dancers rehearse an elaborate routine before starting an after-party, partying, dancing and drinking sangria. The diverse group has several personal issues and share gossip about one another during the celebration.
Emmanuelle sees her young son Tito, who is present at the rehearsals, drink the sangria, and locks him inside an electrical room to protect him from the agitated dancers. Selva goes to the room of her friend Lou, where Lou confesses that she did not drink because she is pregnant. However, Dom, strongly affected by the drug, enters the room, accuses Lou of spiking the drink and kicks her several times in the stomach; Lou, hurt and in great pain, passes an altercation between Alaia and Jennifer, during which Jennifer’s hair is set on fire after Alaia gets physically aggressive due to Jennifer’s refusal to share her cocaine.