“In the void, you can’t run away.” -Claire Denis, Director of High Life (2018)
It’s rare nowadays to go see a film with minimal expectations, in which after the film concludes, your mind is blown beyond belief. Some of the greatest motion pictures to do this are mainly from the science fiction genre, in which they use futuristic elements and “ahead of it’s time” plot devices to impress and astonish their viewers. Let’s get this straight however. While the premise of High Life seems like a Lovecraft-Themed highbrow science fiction film, it is most definitely NOT meant to be one, but rather a father and daughter dialect taken place in the heart of deep space.
What I particular adore about Claire Denis’s work, is how she manages to conjure up a certain nostalgic feeling in all of her films. No matter how cliched or boring said films may be, all of her films use a wide variety of articulate styles to help develop the universe in which her characters live in. High Life is her greatest feat by far, in which she not only succeeds in creating a dynamic and colorful space environment, but also manages to create a grounded Earth setting as well. Using a grey color palette, classic 35mm celluloid, and a 1:37:1 aspect ratio, Claire’s attention to detail is unbelievably prolific and nostalgic, both reminiscent to the works of Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky.
It’s all fun and games until you get to the content itself. While the style does hold up with the pitch perfect directing, what really lacks in High Life is the themes and main purpose of the film. Albeit it’s incredible performances from the great Juliette Binoche, Mia Goth, and Robert Pattinson (who gives his best performance since last year’s Good Time) , the themes and thematic weight of the film feels all too similar compared to superior films. Movies such as Interstellar and Solaris managed to explore themes of family bonds and intergalactic travel/investigation in a more emotionally heavy and refreshing light. High Life on the other hand, while it meant well, falters in the process due to it’s all too common creative weirdness, including but not limited to a particularly controversial and scandalous scene where Juliette Binoche “Rides” a futuristic dildo chair inside a dark and anonymous Under the Skin inspired cube.
Ambitious and audacious, High Life is one of the most OUT THERE films I’ve seen in recent memory. While it lacks in emotion, Claire’s Denis’s vision is a refreshing take on an all to familiar genre that not only transcend’s pre-established cliches and tropes, but also delivers a rich and satisfying product that will be decisive and possibly rage-inducing for some.
A24 Will Release High Life In 2019