An avant-garde space odyssey that propels Robert Pattinson’s acting into the weird and the wonderful, High Life puts a spin on the conventional sci-fi genre. Claire Denis directs a breathtakingly beautiful peak into the disturbing world of Monte, who is flung into space with a group of other unstable young prisoners. While on board, the witch-like doctor – reminiscent of Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (dir. Milos Forman, 1975) – attempts to fertilize the passengers via perverted means.
Not only is High Life visually striking, but the dark, oftentimes erotic themes make it a bold piece of contemporary film making. Denis opts for a square ratio and hazy colour scheme, intermingled with old film footage, to create an aesthetic that is itself part of the story. High Life takes a minimalist approach to the existential, starring powerful performances from Mia Goth and Juliette Binoche. In spite of the merciless violence and psychopathic coldness of some of the characters, Denis still evokes an intricately humane experience. The opening scenes between Monte and his baby daughter are endearingly heart-warming, with lingering camera shots that focus on the simplicity of human touch.
High Life incorporates bursts of action amidst a sense of eerie weightlessness, achieved through the wandering lens inside a ceaselessly meandering space shuttle. The film is not overly expository, unlike many other Hollywood space movies. There is no scientific jargon or heavy plot points. Instead, binary oppositions of life and death, good and bad, etcetera, are relayed through Denis’s carefully crafted visuals.
The deep, daring performance by Pattinson makes a change from his breakthrough role in the The Twilight Saga (2008-2012), as he edges more toward the indie side of cinema. We can also see this from his recent appearance in Good Time (dir. Benny Safdie and Josh Safdie, 2017), which shares the same art house aesthetic as High Life.
Overall, the slow pace and fetishized narrative of High Life definitely makes it one for particular tastes. However, for those that can appreciate film as a visual art form and reach beyond societal taboos, it is truly an incredible piece of introspective cinema.
Sci-fi, Drama | France, 2018 | 15 | 10th May 2019 (UK) | Thunderbird Releasing | Dir.Claire Denis | Robert Pattinson, Juliette Binoche, André Benjamin , Mia Goth