Lux Æterna (2022)

Director: Gaspar Noé

Running Time: 51 Minutes

Certification: 15

Starring: Charlotte Gainsbourg, Béatrice Dalle, Abbey Lee, Karl Glusman, Clara 3000, Claude Gajan Maude

In the early moments, old-looking footage of witch hunts play as though the film was part-documentary in the vein of 1922's Häxan. This highlights a dark time for humanity, as the idea of eternal damnation constantly weighed on people's minds and left them committing horrific acts to hopefully avoid that fate. Writer/director Gaspar Noé blurs the lines between reality and fiction, as evident in stars Charlotte Gainsbourg and Béatrice Dalle playing themselves.

The French cinema icons are the lead actress and director of an experimental film about witches, and audiences are introduced to them swapping stories over drinks. While discussing their filmmaking experiences, the casual dismissal of toxic behaviour rears it's head as nasty encounters become justified due to the subsequent film's quality. As they return to reality, both leads are tracked through split-shots as they try navigating an increasingly chaotic film set.

Any hopes to get the film completed are dampened by an unravelling shoot, courtesy of rising tensions and behind-the-scenes backstabbing. It's this segment which works best, as a film production falls apart due to egos and producers increasingly trying to undermine the woman director. The build-up feels tense at times, culminating in a rave-style witch burning which mirrors early moments as men garner enjoyment from watching women's suffering.

What Noé has crafted is a gorgeously shot and hypnotic feature that doesn't outstay its runtime, before ending as an unfathomable assault on the senses. The final act will be most divisive, and deserve a warning to anybody who has epilepsy. There's much to appreciate here, particularly the commentary on filmmaking, although one's mileage will vary.

Lux Æterna is now available on Blu-Ray from Arrow Video