The book has been called “unfilmable” in the past. So how does the film hold up exactly?
High-Rise is a British thriller based on the book penned by J.G Ballard. We are introduced to Doctor Robert Laing, who moves into his new apartment on the 25th floor of a recently completed high-rise. The building provides its tenants everything they need, such as a grocery store, restaurants, bank, beautician, swimming pools, gym, and even a school.
The amenities provided gradually isolates the tenants from the rest of the world. After abandoning the outside life, violence inside erupts and escalates to the point of complete chaos and loss of time. During which tenant, Richard Wilder, sets out to reach the 40th floor to finally confront the building’s architect.
Condensing such a complex book into a two hour film would have been challenging at the best of times, not to mention keeping it comprehensible. Though the movie does take some artistic licence, the changes made essentially turns the events that develop more peculiar than the novel.
One doesn’t need to be familiar with the book to enjoy the storyline, however, it does help with understanding each of the personalities and their actions beyond what is portrayed on screen.
The cinematography and directorial styles are brilliant at conveying the manufactured hierarchy of the building and the faux society which takes place within the walls. Symbolic scenes, such as fresh fruit fading into rotting food, are used to explain the inner working of the hierarchy, as well as things to come. As intriguing as High-Rise is to watch, it’s equally as absurd and frightful to see everything unfold, because it does have an element of truth in it.
The soundtrack used throughout the movie is quite in your face. Cheerful “elevator” music plays during scenes which do not call for that type of tone at all, often it takes centre stage to cleverly communicate the eeriness of the story. Other times, modern tracks like Portishead’s SOS remake play to build anticipation.
The main issue with High-Rise is that audiences must pay attention to it at all times or the story being played out on screen will stop making sense. The first half of the plot flows quite well but then it leaps into erratic mode which could lead to confusion amongst viewers, especially for those who have not read the book.
Starring the wonderfully talented Jeremy Irons as the architect named Anthony Royal. Sienna Miller tackles the role of Charlotte Melville, while Luke Evans plays the psychotic Richard Wilder. Tom Hiddleston gives one of his best performances as Dr Robert Laing, who possibly enjoys eating dogs.
High-Rise is not a movie for everyone. I’d recommend it to those who appreciate eccentric thrillers or those who simply love the book.
I rate it 6 out of 10 stars.
High-Rise is currently screening at the Revelation Perth International Film Festival. Screening session will be on Saturday. Please check schedule for the time.