Enfant terrible: “Vortex” by Gaspar Noé: drama about aging

enfant terrible
«Vortex» by Gaspar Noé: drama about aging

“Vortex” is one of Gaspar Noé’s most personal films. Photo: Urs Flueeler/KEYSTONE/dpa

© dpa-infocom GmbH

As the enfant terrible of French film, Gaspar Noé has often caused scandals. With “Vortex” he is working on the topic of old age and Alzheimer’s in his own way.

An elderly couple lives in a Paris apartment cluttered with books and memories. He is a historian and film theorist who is writing a book on the connections between cinema and dreams. She is a retired psychoanalyst suffering from Alzheimer’s.

With Vortex, Gaspar Noé has made a drama about aging and what it means to lose your memory, little by little.

Split screen and asynchrony

For the duration of the entire film, Noé uses the split-screen technique, which divides the screen into two parts. It allows one to focus on two characters in different places at the same time, while also illustrating how two lives that are trying to overcome old age and illness are no longer in sync.

With his controversial works “Menschenfeind”, “Irreversible” or “Love” Noé has gained the reputation of a scandal filmmaker because of brutal killing scenes and a lot of sex. At 58, the French director of Argentinian origin seems to have calmed down. His new film is one of the most personal. For the drama, Noé was inspired by his mother, who suffers from Alzheimer’s.

It is the first time Noé has filmed octogenarians. He relies on the strong and unusual duo of the actress and Nouvelle Vague icon Françoise Lebrun (“The Mama and the Whore”) and the Italian filmmaker Dario Argento (“Suspiria”). The director, who decisively shaped the giallo, the Italian subgenre of thrillers, is in front of the camera for the first time with Noé. Alex Lutz (“Guy”) plays the couple’s drug-addicted only son.

Senility is not a rare topic in cinema. The award-winning film “The Father” by Florian Zeller with Anthony Hopkins has recently been the subject of much talk. But Noé works on the material in his own way. As always, the script is limited to a few pages, almost all dialogues are improvised. A moving film that draws its strength from the realism of the situations.

Vortex, France, Belgium, 2021, 135 min., FSK oA, by Gaspar Noé, with Françoise Lebrun, Dario Argento, Alex Lutz


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