High Rise @ Revelation Film Festival (8/07)
Director: Ben Wheatley
Starring: Tom Hiddleston, Sienna Miller, Luke Evans
High Rise is an absolute romp, both lurid yet brutally gratifying to watch.
Based on the J.G Ballard novel of the same name, High Rise tells the story of the titular high rise apartment through the eyes of Dr. Robert Laing (Hiddleston), who has just recently moved in to the apartment after the death of his sister. This high-rise is a completely self-contained environment, providing every luxury and amenity imaginable. One day, the power supply begins to dwindle, and the people inside the high-rise become desperate and descend into savagery, as those on the lower floors declare war on those at the upper floors.
The film really plays into camp 1970s aesthetic, evoking the ultraviolence of old movies- American Psycho and A Clockwork Orange coming to mind, combining with the excess and pomp of the era, whilst the brutalist architecture of the titular high rise, makes for a very visually interesting aesthetic. Every scene is colourful and garish, whether its the early scenes of excess, or scenes of destruction and anarchy- no scene is either without ugly violence or copious amounts of sexual intercourse. The pace of the film begins in an orderly manner, establishing , and picks up at a frantic rate, reflecting the state of the high rise. Throughout the entire film, there is a sense of the surreal playing out- the violence is deployed almost casually- like the opening where we meet Laing's new pet, and parts of the dog are being grilled in the next cut away, and later as the bodies and bags of rubbish begin to pile up.
The performances by the actors were commendable. Hiddleston excelled in the role of a man who is trying to stay sane within the insane environment he finds himself in, whilst Luke Evans, playing as Richard Wilder, a documentarian who slowly loses his sanity, and provides a really convincing portrayal- especially in the scene where he simply grunts and growls like a wild animal. And for comic relief, Louis Suc plays the inventive and (overly) curious Toby, oblivious to the increasing anarchy of the high rise.
The literary influence of the original novel could keenly be felt, with some of the lines making it onto the big screen, and having it really translate seamlessly from page to screen. The film's direction and organizing principle is tight and compact, like the building itself. As for the cinematography there are moments of visual brilliance
Overall, this film may shock some viewers, but at the same time the lurid world that the audience is dragged in is enthralling- it is not exactly a masterpiece in film making, but it never was its intent. It is smart, stylish, decadent, but a film that tells us how thin our veneer of civilization and sophistication is- in a way that Ballard would've been proud of.