Lux Æterna – Some Madness from Gaspar Noé

REVIEW
by Lera Grebennikova
28.11.2020
Lux Æterna ("Eternal light") (2019) is a 51-minute classical psychedelic movie by French director Gaspar Noé, full of beautiful women, hallucination-like scenes, violent colors, quotations, with all this certainly paying homage to great people and history.
The film opens with Dostoevsky's words, written in medieval style "You all, healthy people, can't imagine the happiness which we epileptics feel during the second before our fit... I don't know if this felicity lasts for seconds, hours, or months, but believe me, I would not exchange it for all the joys that life may bring". This is the moment when I felt trapped by Noé. Like it was previously when I saw his works, also full of darkness, light glitches and feelings of pure madness that you "would not exchange for all the joys that life may bring". My heart went faster.
Introduction
Lots of things connected with tortures from medieval times, pictures and engravings of women on fire. Witch-hunt. Stigmatization resulted in an estimated 35,000 to 100,000 executions because of narrow-mindedness. The beautiful Béatrice Dalle and Charlotte Gainsbourg appear on the screen right after that.
Main part
And the most peaceful one. A conversation between women rendered in split-screen, where you cannot choose whom to focus on because both women are absolutely gorgeous in the smooth light of the room with a fireplace. Something about their previous works, filmmaking, monstrous directors. And a tricky question from Dalle to Gainsbourg: "Have you ever been burned?". "Bonfires are super-sexy, Dalle says, It ends badly, but it's uber-cool. The dialogue is interrupted by two men. The gathering quickly goes off the rails and descends into utter chaos.
Chaos part
It starts with everybody on the screen screaming and crying, beseeching to stop this. "Man, it's starting to vibe, don't you think?" one stagehand says to another in the midst of this madness. And the thing immediately crosses your mind — yes, I feel it's vibing, moreover, it's vibrating in these colors, and through all the annoyance of that screeching sound and flashing screens on the background I can see the real beauty, and I somehow don't want this chaos to stop.


The plot is not the thing that you can trace in the movie. Actually, there is no plot in the classic sense. Understanding the thing how the film itself can talk to us through the visual part, surroundings and sound is more interesting here. It's due to Benoit Debie, Noé's regular cameraman, his mesmerizing and truly hypnotic work. He is the person who provided this movie with his unique feeling of darkness coming round and different textures that visually make the audience feel uncomfortable and suspenseful. Green walls with lots of little hollows in them create the feeling of trypophobia approaching, incommodious rooms which make us feel intruding into the intimate life of women on the stage. This effect appears also because of the stylish vision through the other camera, more like VHS, with its special bad quality image. Such a device works on the feeling of manhunting against the audience's will. This is what makes the feeling of very intimate bodily discomfort.

But there is the thing that only Benoit Debie can catch — pictures of women who literally look like Divinities in bloody lightning.

With the visual part prevailing, some parallels become obvious, for example, between the line of medieval witch-hunts with torture instruments and nowadays' torture and struggle that everyone working in the collaborative filmmaking sphere can feel. The most powerful episode is that of Béatrice Dalle going crazy because she felt frustrated and totally alone with this chaos around her. This feeling of loneliness was rising inside her when she was crying and closing her eyes in front of a burned-out and exhausted Charlotte Gainsbourg bound to a stake. Both of them are burning inside, deep inside their own thoughts and problems. And it's all perfect visually. It was smart to using here the split-screen device to make the audience feel this bifurcation, to give a chance to sink into this strange story here.

Unruly, disorienting filmmaking techniques literally make the audience's perception binary. Frames blink in and out, cameras float and speed through unexpected close spaces, and neon palettes pulsate with absolutely incomparable sound, more like an ambient with a hypnotic effect. To the very end of this film, the only question stuck in your head is — when does it end? And will it?
Yes, I definitely agree with people who wrote that it's hard to imagine that Noé could serve any master other than himself. An odious person. "Rebellion", "homophobe", "extremist provocateur". Noé is awarded by lots of catchy epithets. Somebody can say that he is yet another 'enfant terrible' because of his unshakable style in cinema. His movies are often more like misanthropic poems about marginalized people with a pinch of full madness. And it comes as no great surprise that his attempt to make a 15-minute commercial for Yves Saint Laurent was turned into his own weird thing called Lux Æterna. He brought it to Cannes. Unfortunately, this short film was out of the competition.

Russian premieres have divided people, roughly speaking, into two groups. Those who understood this movie only as a beautiful part of a commercial for Yves Saint Laurent and those who rather seem to think that this is a pure piece of art, from Noé with love. Some people were not so astonished, and some, including me, were really amazed, almost enchanted. We met Zinaida Pronchenko, a film expert working for the Russian magazine The Art Of The Film ("Искусство Кино"), at the premiere. And she was not so pleased with Noé's movie:
"This is a specific film even for Noé. It's an average meter, 51 minutes, almost no plot. Something like an ommage to fashion and film history. I'm not surprised, it's classical Gaspar Noé with his teenage existentialism, with his stroboscope, with some kind of madness... Classic."
All in all, it was a great satire with lots of creepy things, alluding to the real hell, both on the stage and in human minds. A remarkable joke by Luis Bunuel appears after the final titles: "Thank God I'm an atheist!". And everything you've seen previously descends into negation and you feel utter relief.
 
Lux Æterna – Some Madness from Gaspar Noé

REVIEW
by Lera Grebennikova
28.11.2020
Lux Æterna ("Eternal light") (2019) is a 51-minute classical psychedelic movie by French director Gaspar Noé, full of beautiful women, hallucination-like scenes, violent colors, quotations, with all this certainly paying homage to great people and history.
The film opens with Dostoevsky's words, written in medieval style "You all, healthy people, can't imagine the happiness which we epileptics feel during the second before our fit... I don't know if this felicity lasts for seconds, hours, or months, but believe me, I would not exchange it for all the joys that life may bring". This is the moment when I felt trapped by Noé. Like it was previously when I saw his works, also full of darkness, light glitches and feelings of pure madness that you "would not exchange for all the joys that life may bring". My heart went faster.
Introduction
Lots of things connected with tortures from medieval times, pictures and engravings of women on fire. Witch-hunt. Stigmatization resulted in an estimated 35,000 to 100,000 executions because of narrow-mindedness. The beautiful Béatrice Dalle and Charlotte Gainsbourg appear on the screen right after that.
Main part
And the most peaceful one. A conversation between women rendered in split-screen, where you cannot choose whom to focus on because both women are absolutely gorgeous in the smooth light of the room with a fireplace. Something about their previous works, filmmaking, monstrous directors. And a tricky question from Dalle to Gainsbourg: "Have you ever been burned?". "Bonfires are super-sexy, Dalle says, It ends badly, but it's uber-cool. The dialogue is interrupted by two men. The gathering quickly goes off the rails and descends into utter chaos.
Chaos part
It starts with everybody on the screen screaming and crying, beseeching to stop this. "Man, it's starting to vibe, don't you think?" one stagehand says to another in the midst of this madness. And the thing immediately crosses your mind — yes, I feel it's vibing, moreover, it's vibrating in these colors, and through all the annoyance of that screeching sound and flashing screens on the background I can see the real beauty, and I somehow don't want this chaos to stop.

The plot is not the thing that you can trace in the movie. Actually, there is no plot in the classic sense. Understanding the thing how the film itself can talk to us through the visual part, surroundings and sound is more interesting here. It's due to Benoit Debie, Noé's regular cameraman, his mesmerizing and truly hypnotic work. He is the person who provided this movie with his unique feeling of darkness coming round and different textures that visually make the audience feel uncomfortable and suspenseful. Green walls with lots of little hollows in them create the feeling of trypophobia approaching, incommodious rooms which make us feel intruding into the intimate life of women on the stage. This effect appears also because of the stylish vision through the other camera, more like VHS, with its special bad quality image. Such a device works on the feeling of manhunting against the audience's will. This is what makes the feeling of very intimate bodily discomfort.

But there is the thing that only Benoit Debie can catch — pictures of women who literally look like Divinities in bloody lightning.
With the visual part prevailing, some parallels become obvious, for example, between the line of medieval witch-hunts with torture instruments and nowadays' torture and struggle that everyone working in the collaborative filmmaking sphere can feel. The most powerful episode is that of Béatrice Dalle going crazy because she felt frustrated and totally alone with this chaos around her. This feeling of loneliness was rising inside her when she was crying and closing her eyes in front of a burned-out and exhausted Charlotte Gainsbourg bound to a stake. Both of them are burning inside, deep inside their own thoughts and problems. And it's all perfect visually. It was smart to using here the split-screen device to make the audience feel this bifurcation, to give a chance to sink into this strange story here.

Unruly, disorienting filmmaking techniques literally make the audience's perception binary. Frames blink in and out, cameras float and speed through unexpected close spaces, and neon palettes pulsate with absolutely incomparable sound, more like an ambient with a hypnotic effect. To the very end of this film, the only question stuck in your head is — when does it end? And will it?

Yes, I definitely agree with people who wrote that it's hard to imagine that Noé could serve any master other than himself. An odious person. "Rebellion", "homophobe", "extremist provocateur". Noé is awarded by lots of catchy epithets. Somebody can say that he is yet another 'enfant terrible' because of his unshakable style in cinema. His movies are often more like misanthropic poems about marginalized people with a pinch of full madness. And it comes as no great surprise that his attempt to make a 15-minute commercial for Yves Saint Laurent was turned into his own weird thing called Lux Æterna. He brought it to Cannes. Unfortunately, this short film was out of the competition.
Russian premieres have divided people, roughly speaking, into two groups. Those who understood this movie only as a beautiful part of a commercial for Yves Saint Laurent and those who rather seem to think that this is a pure piece of art, from Noé with love. Some people were not so astonished, and some, including me, were really amazed, almost enchanted. We met Zinaida Pronchenko, a film expert working for the Russian magazine The Art Of The Film ("Искусство Кино"), at the premiere. And she was not so pleased with Noé's movie:
"This is a specific film even for Noé. It's an average meter, 51 minutes, almost no plot. Something like an ommage to fashion and film history. I'm not surprised, it's classical Gaspar Noé with his teenage existentialism, with his stroboscope, with some kind of madness... Classic".
All in all, it was a great satire with lots of creepy things, alluding to the real hell, both on the stage and in human minds. A remarkable joke by Luis Bunuel appears after the final titles: "Thank God I'm an atheist!". And everything you've seen previously descends into negation and you feel utter relief.
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