TIFF 2015: High Rise
As one of the films we listed as our “Top Picks for TIFF 2015” we were both excited and nervous about seeing Ben Wheatley’s High-Rise. The novel on which the film is based was written by J.G. Ballard – cinema fans would know as the author of Cronenberg’s Crash. For those unfortunate souls who weren’t familiar with the novel, the author, nor the Director – the film could be described as a Surreal Thriller. Definitely not to everyone’s taste (as evidenced by the mid-film departure of the three older ladies sitting behind us). For those looking for something outside the boundaries of conventional cinema – this is a good choice, and is evidently quite Polarizing.
As you will read in the next paragraph down, Angelina and I have different very opinions about this film. My opinion is that this was a dark, captivating film about the fragility of society. The film begins with Dr. Laing’s (Tom Hiddleston) arrival and his seemingly normal first few days at the class-divided High-Rise. He befriends the tower’s creator, and penthouse resident, Royal (Jeremy Irons) who’s vapid wife is the leader of the upper-class residents. She has an endless need for impressive parties to rival the lower-floor residents, including self-centered and obsessive Wilder (Luke Evans), while they assert their want to be treated as equals. This film can’t even be called an allegory for Class Wars, because it portrays a literal Class War. The brutality and violence that the whole situation eventually dissolves into was progressed in an relatively normal way. Like a frog in a pot Dr. Laing too, as neutral as he tried to stay, is consumed by the same psychosis as the rest. The film leaves us with no hero, and no sympathy. Laing, Royal, even underdog-turned-rapist Wilder are all deserving of their terrible fates.
I’m going to start by saying that I didn’t love this film, which baffles me. It has the makings of everything that I do like – chaotic breakdowns of society, class warfare taken to ridiculous extremes, and Tom Hiddleston looking Fine! But somehow it just never came together for me, and in fact it really dragged. It had tones in common with other favorites of mine – Fight Club, Brazil… but it just felt empty and forced (Fake Gilliam is how I heard it described). I keep going over it in my head, hoping that something will click to make it a positive experience. But nothing comes together and I just find myself disappointed.
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