High-Rise

Diretor: Ben Wheatley (2016)

This towering cinematic achievement offers the audience a dark view of modern life.

British director Ben Wheatley brings to J.G. Ballard’s 1975 blood soaked satirical sci fi novel vividly to life.

With The Kill List (2011) Sightseers (2012) and A Field In England (2013) under his belt, he has the most singular vision of any British director working today.

Aided by his scriptwriter and wife Amy Jump, Wheatley has erected another uniquely English construction of comedy, horror, politics, sex and violence.

Currently starring in TV’s The Night Manager, Tom Hiddleston is hugely impressive as Dr. Robert Laing.

He’s just moved into a skyscraper and is determined to fit in to the rigid social hierarchy.

Living in the penthouse with his nostalgia obsessed wife and her private menagerie is the pointedly named Anthony Royal.

It’s another intelligent performance from Jeremy Irons. The buildings architect a godlike figure who can’t understand the free will of the chaotic people who populate his creation.

Royal believes he has left one crucial ingredient out of his building, but he hasn’t taken account of the effect of the building on the people who live there.

Laing has a short lived affair with the single mother who lives on the floor above. As the seductive and brittle Charlotte, Sienna Miller relishes the opportunity offered by the role to essay a complex character and delivers a strong and memorable performance.

Luke Evans and Elisabeth Moss as the fertile working class couple on a lower floor are among the strong supporting cast.

As it’s cutting edge 1970’s technology fails, the high-rise deteriorates and Laing starts to suffer a nervous breakdown.

While the penthouse hosts regency themed cocktail parties and swingers accumulate on the shag pile rug, the poor are blamed for their own misfortunes.

There are riots in the supermarket and violent class war descends into animal behaviour.

Styled in the 1970’s the decade the book was written, it’s a concrete, plastic and polythene world dressed in lurid shades of nylon sportswear.

The concept of recycling is in the future, nature is absent or seen as polluting, a hindrance, and a threat. Organic matter is something to be fenced off, bagged up and removed.

A smart script, great design, excellent performances and brilliant use of music combine in powerful critique of social engineering.

Although containing many ideas which are prescient, the power cuts, bodies and bin bags piling up are powerful reminders of headlines of the decade but the historical relevance may need explaining to a younger audience.

But seen from a distance, none of this undermines the soaring strength of the storytelling technique.

 

 

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