Tiny Couch Review

High Life, 2019

  • lucidunicorn
    Master Critic

    80 posts
    Signed up the 29/03/2017

    On 20/04/2019 at 15:46 Quote this message


    High Life is a sci-fi film directed by Claire Denis. The film stars Robert Pattinson, Juliette Binoche, Mia Goth and André Benjamin. High Life follows death row inmates who have been sent into space for a suicide mission towards a black hole in order to record and find an alternative energy source.

    High Life is a really interesting film that I think will have audiences split, some will love it or some will hate it as the film explores human sexuality, power, survival and parenthood in uncomfortable ways and sometimes violent ways. The film is very bleak because here you have these characters on a suicide mission towards a black hole and these characters are being sexually violated (and they can’t do much because of the power dynamics in play) and yet the film has this hopefulness about it because it’s essentially about parenthood and the tough choices some of our parents make just for our survival.

    The characters of this film are criminals so a bit of violence is to be expected but the physical violence is not what Denis uses to make us uncomfortable but rather the sexual violence and she not only isolates the characters emotionally but in doing this she isolates us the audience from making a connection with them. She doesn’t have them make bold emotion statements or gestures to make us root for them, she just has them surviving.

    It’s also about the cruelty of life but I found that it also never fails in showing us glimpses of the beauty of life and in this instance it’s the tender moments Monte (Robert Pattinson) shares with his daughter Willow and other moments where the characters are truly honest with each other. Robert Pattinson is truly in his bag here and his performance is absolutely wonderful. He plays Monte with such nuance that underneath all the bleakness, the unsympathetic look and isolation we can see the love and connection he has with the baby.

    Juliette Binoche also shines as Dr. Dibs who wreaks havoc on the characters using sex. She uses her obsession with power to control the inmates so that she can achieve perfection even if it means sexually violating the other characters, her desire and obsession is essentially her down fall because perfection comes with a price.

    The cinematography is the best part of the film, as Denis chose to use her camera in an intrusive manner which certainly adds to the uncomfortable nature of the film. The camera intrudes on the inmates personal space and this we can see by the close ups which not only show us the frustration of the inmates but also the isolation and even fear if you look close enough. The camera doesn’t shy away from showing us rape, a primal almost animalistic masturbation all the while keeping these characters emotionally isolated from each other and us. The camera also intrudes on their memories and secrets, utilizing a retro-grainy like look to the flash backs – Claire Denis also in a way explores time and we can tell this by the somewhat nonlinear nature of the film, coupled with a haunting score it’s easy to see why some are saying this High Life is a horror film. It certainly has horror tropes but the really scary aspect of the film is the sense of isolation and for me ”In Space, No One Can Hear You Scream” has never been truer.

    I highly recommend High Life if you’re into films that are slightly artsy and explore aspects of human nature in uncomfortable ways. You will not like this film if you’re looking for a big roaring sci-fi space epic this isn’t the one noted Interstellar (oops i had to lol), however you will find some lovely thought provoking material.


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