TIFF 2015: Chaos Makes The World Turn In ‘High-Rise’

Ben Wheatley directs a star-studded cast featuring Jeremy Irons, Tom Hiddleston, Luke Evans, Sienna Miller and Elisabeth Moss in High-Rise.

An adaptation of JG Ballard’s novel of the same name, the film takes place in 1975 London where young doctor Robert Laing (Tom Hiddleston) is intrigued by the lifestyle in a high-rise community that is away from the rest of the city.  During his first few days in the building, Laing meets Charlotte (Sienna Miller) and Robert Wilder (Luke Evans) who is a documentary filmmaker stuck on the second floor with his wife, Helen (Elisabeth Moss) and children, hell-bent on exposing the rampant class injustices and inequalities in the high-rise.

(Courtesy of Film4/StudioCanal)

Upon attending a gathering with the building’s architect, Anthony Royal (Jeremy Irons), Laing sees first-hand what life is like for the people on the top-most floors and he now knows first-hand what Wilder has been complaining about.

The catalyst of the film begins with the lights and other utilities in the building going off. The tensions then reach their boiling point during a children’s birthday party where the ‘lower-class’ tenants charge to the pool which is holding a private event for the ‘upper-class’ folks. Chaos breaks out and only continues to filter out to the rest of the building.

For what could be days or maybe even weeks, scenes reminiscent of William Golding’s, Lord of the Flies plays out in the high-rise. There is destruction everywhere and no order to be found as the residents throw wild parties, engage in criminal activity, run out of food and other necessities, leading to brawls and are even more distrustful of one another than they were when they first came to the building.

(Courtesy of Film4/StudioCanal)

However, where I wish the film was different was in the way that they showed the caste system in the dwelling. Any readers of the novel would know that Ballard described the many workings of the inequality for pages, describing how the amenities were unfairly distributed between the different residents on the lower and upper floors and that while the residents on the bottom floor were forced to live without electricity, the top floors never went without. It is obviously shown in the film, but it is not at detailed as it could have been and it almost causes the film to get lost outside of the chaos that is occurring on screen.

But in any case, the performances of all the actors are great, and they all hold their own with the legend that is Mr. Jeremy Irons, amidst all the craziness that is happening within the high-rise and throughout the film as a whole.

(Courtesy of Film4/StudioCanal)

Another aspect of the film I highly enjoyed was Ben Wheatley’s filming. Prior to seeing High-Rise, I was not super familiar with Wheatley’s work, but watching this has intrigued me to explore more of his filmography. Many of the shots were so artistic and immersing that I forgot that I was watching a movie and it was more like being in some kind of art gallery.

All-in-all, the film had some pretty fun elements along with some confusing and chaotic ones, but if you’re a fan of Ben Wheatley it’s definitely a film you’ll want to check out.


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