Director Ben Wheatley’s (Kill List, Sightseers) latest project is an adaptation of the well-known 1975 JG Ballard novel, High-Rise. Taking the film on tour across UK cinemas, Wheatley and actor Luke Evans (who plays Wilder in the film) took part in Q&A’s and signings for fans and treated them to a pre-cinema release screening of the film.
The film sees Dr. Robert Laing (Tom Hiddleston), a young, wealthy psychologist move into a lavish new apartment situated in the High-Rise. The towering building created by Anthony Royal (Jeremy Irons), otherwise known as The Architect supplies the luxuries of modern life. Anything you want, its guaranteed the High-Rise has got it, however its a system that is only beneficial to the wealthy which threatens to collapse when Richard Wilder, a frustrated family man living on the second floor, threatens to expose the disadvantages of the lower classes through his documentary. Carnage and chaos ensues and its every man for himself as the society represented by the High-Rise falls apart along with plenty of orgies and dog eating going on!
High-Rise as a concept is surreal and the film captures that aspect incredibly well. Art house and politics merge together creating a film that is both strange yet poignant as a theoretical reflection of modern society. Wheatley spoke about how despite the book being written in 1975, pre-Thatcher era he felt that the themes were just as relevant today as they were in the 1980’s, explaining that High-Rise was Ballard’s vision of the future which is unnerving in itself.
Luke Evans said what attracted him to the role of Wilder was his own background of growing up in the South Wales Valleys during the Miner’s Strike and witnessing family members lose their jobs, he found the role relate-able.
High-Rise displays polished cinematography, jam-packed with odd and jarring imagery to emphasize the concept of class war. Wheatley keeps the aesthetic very much loyal to the look of the 1970s from the style to the fashion.
Its a production of a high standard with strong performances from the caliber of acclaimed British actors, mainly Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irons, Sienna Miller as the dangerous and seductive Charlotte, Reece Shearsmith as the quirky Nathan Steele and of course Luke Evans. The tone is chaotic and there is a lot to take in on just one viewing, it gets under the skin particularly watching the depraved and animalistic behavior of the tenants in the building.
It takes its time to develop however goes for the jugular as the violence increases in the latter part of the film. The characters are pretty much unlikable and a portrayal of selfishness but its interesting to see how they’re seduced by the lifestyle of the building and will do anything to cling onto that despite the fact at any moment they are free to leave.
This element is the film’s most intriguing as its not as if the characters are confined to the High-Rise with no escape, its their own choice and the inability to let that go makes powerful viewing.
Having not read the book, its unclear how accurate the film is to the source material however fans attending the Q&A seemed pleased with the outcome. Releasing the film adaptation now in Cameron’s Britain is certainly an interesting and prominent time considering the novel is over forty years old. Wheatley described it as a prelude to the state of the British society as we are now living.
High-Rise deserves a second viewing to fully appreciate every aspect. Its a heavy, dark film that incorporates a strangeness about it but its themes are scarily realistic. Despite not being directly a horror film and more of an action/thriller, High-Rise is bloodthirsty in subject matter and imagery. Its thought-provoking and psychologically disturbing, signifying the horror of hierarchy.