Let’s look at another Twitter suggestion.
I love getting movie suggestions on Twitter and try to watch all of them. High Life caught my eye when it first came out, but somehow it slipped away from me. Luckily, it is now available on Prime so anyone with the service can watch it for free.
Directed by Claire Denis, this science-fiction/horror/drama hybrid contains some excellent visuals. Denis is one of those directors who I appreciate but have never fully connected with. Each scene she crafts is so lovely. Every single one could be a sort of photograph. Coupled with a discordant and melancholy soundtrack, the mood is just perfect. We have intense close ups and an unblinking look at life in the strange world of the film.
This is Denis’ first English language film, and the first one to really connect with me.
We follow Monte (Robert Pattinson) as he cares for infant Willow on a spaceship somewhere in the remote regions of the galaxy. He is alone with her, and it seems that every day is somewhat a struggle for survival.
Monte was not always alone. We learn that he is a criminal, and many criminals were sent into space as part of an agreement. Conduct research on a black hole and come back a hero. It becomes clear to the crew quickly that there will be no coming back, and they have simply been warehoused off to die.
The film becomes quasi-apocalyptic. We have people trapped in deep space with little to no oversight. The officers on board seem to be prisoners (criminals) as well. Dibs (Juliette Binoche) conducts experiments in child rearing in deep space, which usually results in complications and death.
The film chronicles how it all fell apart. We all know that eventually Monte will be alone with this baby, but the how and why are where the meat of the story is. The criminals on board deal with the isolation in their own (usually destructive) ways. Denis offers an unblinking look at the primal and sadistic nature of humanity. Sequences of graphic violence, sexual violence, and suicidal violence permeate the film.
To say that this film has mixed reviews is an understatement. A lot of people hated it, but their hatred seems more to be from not wanting to hear what the film has to say. This is not a rosy look at the future where the heroes will save the day (like Interstellar) and the badness of humanity can be overcome. Nope, this story shows that people are generally wicked, self-centered to the point of solipsism, and dangerous.
The search for existential meaning drives the prisoners to madness. What they are meant to be seems to override who they are. Monte places his purpose in Willow, but before then he seems as lost as many of the others, though they all act out in different ways.
The film is meditative and marches towards what we all know will be the ultimate end. While pessimistic about humanity the film never ventures into nihilism. Maintaining this balance is difficult to do and I imagine one could make an argument that it is not as successful as I see it.
It was wise of Denis to have the crew be criminals instead of just lost astronauts. How we view criminals as disposable makes this one ring as potentially feasible. We tend to ship our problems off (figuratively and literally) without considering the underlining human condition. Here, we get a look at that human condition in its rawest and ugliest form.
I need to watch more of Denis’ filmography. I think this one would be a great entry point into another thought-provoking artist.
Worth a watch.