A father and his daughter struggle to survive in deep space where they live in isolation.
Claire Denis has made 14 films in her career and at the age of 73, ‘High Life’ is her first to be made in the English language. Her reasoning, amusingly, is that she couldn’t imagine a film set in space using the French language. ‘High Life’ is set on board a spaceship and it’s a thoughtful piece of science fiction, using its otherworldly setting and the confined environment of a spaceship to explore existential themes and the nature of humanity. Told in a non-linear fashion, the film is about a group of death row inmates who are sent on an experimental expedition toward a black hole whilst taking part in scientific experiments.
Our main viewpoint is through Robert Pattinson’s Monte who continues to make interesting choices in his post-Twilight career. He is one of several passengers on the ship and he’s one of the patients of Dr. Dibs (Juliette Binoche), a doctor who is in charge of the scientific experiments on board. Most of these experiments are sexual in nature albeit sexual activity between prisoners is prohibited; instead a device on the ship called ‘The Box’ is available as a masturbatory device. Dibs is obsessed with creating a child through artificial insemination and this compulsion leads to trouble amongst the individuals on the ship, which gradually comes to a head as several characters give into their basest impulses.
I really liked this film and found it to be captivating and interesting throughout. It’s reminiscent of the kind of science fiction most commonly explored in the 1970s such as ‘Silent Running’ or in particular Tarkovsky’s ‘Stalker’ where a meditative tone is utilised instead of action to make resonant points about the human condition. The tone of ‘High Life’ is altogether more nihilistic about human behaviour and that can sometimes be tough to get along with, but the hypnotic mood and a really good Pattinson performance compliment the smart script (written with support from a physicist and black hole expert) to create a memorable piece of work, one that I won’t easily forget in a while.
Directed By: Claire Denis
Starring: Robert Pattinson, Juliette Binoche, Andre Benjamin, Mia Goth, Lars Eidinger, Agata Buzek, Claire Tran, Ewan Mitchell, Victor Banerjee and Jessie Ross