Let’s watch a masterpiece.
Gaspar Noe’s Vortex may be his most intimate film, and perhaps his most unflinching. We follow a mother and father (Francoise Lebrun and Dario Argento) as they are aging in Paris. She has dementia and he has a heart condition. Much like Michael Haneke’s Amour, this is a beautiful film that deals with aging, death, and memory.
Early in the film the screen is split into two by a large black bar. The significance of the split screen allows us to follow two separate characters at once, and symbolizes that while physically together, our couple is in fact alone. Father spends his days working on his new book and Mother wanders the house. She is fidgety, uncomfortable, and often scared.
Scenes of Mother wandering around a store without telling Father where he is create panic for him. He does not know where she is, and must search for her. Father is not capable of providing the care she needs, but is also unwilling to consider moving to a home.
Their son (Alex Lutz, who gives a perfect performance) tries to help them but is struggling in his own life.
Through long takes we see the family attempt to find an honest and committed solution while often lying to one another about what they think or feel. The mixture of truth and lies reflects a troubled family dynamic. Noe doesn’t let us go from these scenes, and instead forces them to play out to their realistic ends.
The camera follows each character as they struggle to deal with what their new reality is. Long shots and natural lighting provide us with an intimate look at the daily lives of these people. The shots are closed in, emotional, and sometimes painful. It is all carried forward by impeccable acting and dialogue.
The cold reality and inevitability of what is coming makes this film both captivating and hard to watch. Stellar performances by everyone involved. There isn’t anything negative to say here. The film is beautiful.
The closing sequence of images may be one of the most powerful segments of film I’ve seen in years. It is simply breathtaking. This is easily the best movie of the year, Noe’s best work, and somehow even manages to top Haneke’s flawless Amour.
This is cinema.