Sunday, 10 April 2016

High-Rise Falling Down

Life for the residents of a tower begins to run out of control.


High-Rise is the adaptation of J.G. Ballard's 1975 novel, directed by Ben Wheatley and starring Tom Hiddleston as Dr. Robert Laing. I didn't really know what to expect from this movie, as I did not read the book, so I came at it from a fresh perspective. This film is a quasi-period piece, which is not completely irrelevant to a Britain in which buy-to-let apartment block exist. It is a blank, affectless world with a certain type of sci-fi and satirical Englishness. This tale is quite a bizarre, sleek, seedy and mad spectacle. 


If Jeremy Iron's roles in Dead Ringer and M.Butterfly provide a roundabout link to Cronenberg, so does a med-school scene where the skin of a cadaver's head is peeled away in a kind of metaphor for society's thin surface. That and his wife parading around like some postmodern Marie Antoinette, on a horse. In fact, the core cast is brilliant. Tom Hiddleston is terrifically nonchalant, giving a great performance as the lead character: dry and self-possessed. A charming and charismatic performance with a hint of internal sadness. Plus, Miller makes bright work of Charlotte. 


Mark Tildesley's lavish production design ranges from mouldering fruit bowls to posh parties decadent enough to cause a French Revolution. Decadence, despair and violence are all around, in a kind of ongoing erotic catastrophe. The screenwriters played out this scenario as a retro-futuristic sci-fi allegory - Ballard was writing the near-future in the mid-70s: Wheatley and Jump smartly stick with a period they know well. I loved the film's refusal of "normal" storytelling, bold visual style with these gorgeous shots and vibrant colours. Combined with the editing, shots have a dream-like surreal quality, a colourful beginning contrasted by the end with a dark shadow feeling. 


The soundtrack was great, there is two scenes especially where there's this string quartet playing an ABBA song and later on it gets remix, it was probably one of my favourite scenes - as well as this very interesting naked scene on the balcony that might also be of some interest to some of you. Finally, for some High-Rise could be frustrating and the specific references to Margaret Thatcher era doesn't quite work as a whole.


Overall, High-Rise has a vibe of "you want to look away but you really can't". This film is an excellent allegory for society, it lingers in the mind with some strong visuals, good soundtrack and more than decent acting.

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