Gaspar Noé’s film is really weird and defies genres

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“The bonfire scene will be magnificent. Have you ever burned at the stake? Perhaps this is a strange question to ask someone. But it’s like that Lux Æterna begin.

A split screen shows Béatrice Dalle and Charlotte Gainsbourg, two French actresses, discussing their past cinematic experiences: their roles, their on-screen lovers, the horrific directors, producers and crew members. Beatrice and Charlotte are revealed to be making a movie about witches together, with Beatrice directing and Charlotte starring.

Lux ̠terna is a 51-minute mock documentary-style film that takes place Рyou guessed it Рa film that takes place over the course of a night. While the opening scene is calm, cool, and collected, the action that follows is anything but. Minor dramas and rivalries on set quickly spiral out of control, plunging into a state of chaos.

The production team hates Béatrice Dalle (or rather, the exaggeration [we hope…] version of herself that she plays) and wants her kicked out of the movie. The supporting actors are confused about the motivations of their characters and even confused about the film itself. An American actor-filmmaker desperately wants to talk to Charlotte about a new project he wants her for. Meanwhile, Charlotte desperately wants to come home because her young daughter may have had a traumatic experience at school.

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The bickering and bickering ends up culminating in a bizarre dysfunction on set that upsets both the cast in the film and the audiences watching it happen.

Lux Æterna was written and directed by Gaspar Noé, a filmmaker known for his dark and disturbing work. Lux Æterna fits this bill. It’s a really weird movie that challenges any particular genre. (Is it a drama? A dark comedy? A thriller?). The style of the mock documentary is vaguely metafictional, but not enough to make it entirely clear that the metafiction was the intention. There seems to be a general comment about narcissism in the film industry and the exploitation of actors, especially women. To top it off, it is interspersed with extracts from the 1922 docudrama. Häxan, which deals with the history of witchcraft and witchcraft trials in medieval Europe.

The scenario that unfolds during the first forty-five minutes or so of Lux Æterna, however, is totally overshadowed by the ending, which seems to gain the most attention at film festivals. The dysfunction that occurs during the filming of the film in the film causes the red, green and blue lights to blink at an increasingly rapid rate, causing psychological distress in Charlotte Gainsbourg (who is tied to a stake, cannot be release, and can only cry out for help) and Béatrice Dalle, who is forced to watch this happen and can’t seem to do anything about it. It’s a disturbing scene that seems both voyeuristic (because it is) and perversely captivating (because… it is).

At Lux ÆternaOn the Brooklyn Horror Film Festival website page, there is a note that says, “Photosensitivity Warning: This film contains extended footage of flashing lights. At the cinema, just before the screening started, we received the same warning about the strobe effects of the film. Fortunately, no one had a seizure. But the combination of the flashes and the image of Charlotte Gainsbourg crying for help could trigger a panic attack.

Lux Æterna projected to Brooklyn Horror Film Festival 2021.

Summary

Voyeurist and perversely captivating, Lux Æterna is another remarkable addition to the dark and disturbing work of Gaspar Noé.


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