‘High Rise’, directed by Ben Wheatley, is a two hour psychedelic trip that you’ll find you just don’t want to come down from. Set in the 70s, this adaptation of the book by the same name (JG Ballard), follows Dr. Robert Laing (Tom Hiddleston) as he moves into a wealthy London skyscraper where the rich live on the lower floors and the fabulously wealthy live at the top. The entirety of the higher-end of society has been encapsulated into this one tower block, with each balcony looking down on the floor below. All seems fine and dandy until the lesser of the rich want to climb the wealthier floors, and suddenly the place is chaos.
It takes a special sort of director and writer to together create a film that produces the highest feelings of anxiety within the viewer, yet also keep eyes glued to the screen. That’s pretty much how I felt throughout the whole thing – both the characters and the scenes were so unpredictable that I couldn’t help but feel majorly unsettled by the whole thing. Luke Evans plays the aggressively primal Richard Wilder, a character so energised and erratic that he made me feel particularly unnerved. The first person to come to mind was Freud, and there are some very clear Freudian elements hidden within the surreal that give quite an interesting take on this dystopian future.
All of the characters are highly unusual, from the mysterious Charlotte Melville (Sienna Miller) on the balcony above, to the architect of the building and penthouse owner Anthony Royals (Jeremy Irons) who is a disturbing representation of the super-ego. Laing is the man who learns to silently adapt to each situation, and is because of this is portrayed as the most dangerous of all.
Having such high-profile names involved, I wasn’t expecting quite such a surreal experience. It’s arty and bizarre from the start, with not one scene that can be taken literally. Every part is a metaphor for something else, and some scenes felt almost dreamlike. It’s as if someone put Lynch, Kubrick, Burton, and perhaps the director of Genesis’ music videos together in a room and just left them to their own devices, without any rules. It was a massive risk to take, but frankly it worked. Aside from the fantastic acting and clever concept, there was just so much that really made it. The script was witty and dark, filled with a morbid humour that never failed to disappoint. Some of the best lines came from Melville’s son Toby, whose disturbing view of this dystopian future is what we are also seeing.
The music was also beautiful, ranging from the disorientating, dramatic score from Clive Mansell to the eerie cover of Abba’s ‘SOS’ by Portishead (hands down the best Abba cover I’ve ever heard). The mood of the music changes so rapidly that it really adds to that unsettling feeling – one minute it’s classical melodrama, and the next we’re back to atmospheric industrial. The visuals are also stunning, with some really clever shots that, although perhaps had sometimes been overused, still worked perfectly to convey that muddled orgy of anarchy that grows and grows as the film goes on.
I’ve got to admit that I spent the whole film asking myself what the hell I was watching. It really is one of those films that will lure your attention away from reality for two hours, and then make you wonder if perhaps you’d taken something you shouldn’t have earlier on the in the day. It’s so in-depth and captivating that you can’t help but over-analyse it – when I was studying film I would have been all over this one. It’s dizzying, thought-provoking, and will no doubt leave an imprint on your mind – somehow though, you’ll want to watch the whole thing all over again.
I give High Rise a 5/5.
High Rise at CeX
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