Inspiration from the best Space Operas leads to an erotic drama.
The best word to describe “High Life” is interesting. It’s a Sci-Fi Indie that has been inspired by “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “The Martian,” and “Interstellar,” but is given an R-rating because it involves sex, rape, and eroticism. Sure, I’ve seen this kind of thing in “Heavy Metal,” but they way they’re drawn here is artistic.
The movie, co-written and directed by Claire Denis, offers a variety of dazzling images and sentimental performances, so that’s a plus side. But it took me a while to understand the story’s concept. This is the kind of movie you’d want to turn to sources to get better answers, unless you’re able to grasp the concept within the first half hour.
But the more you watch it, the more interested you become. I can’t recommend “High Life” as a classic, but I can say: you may or may not become interested, based on your perspectives.
The movie opens with Robert Pattinson as Monte, who is raising his baby girl Willow (Scarlett Lindsey as the baby and later Jessie Ross as the teen) in a spaceship drifting across the cosmos. The ship he’s on has a garden with running water, and computers which post random Earth videos and images. Any message to Earth would take years to get a response, so don’t give yourself a headache.
Then the movie flash back to when we meet Monte, Tcherny (Andre Benjamin-still acting), and Boyse (Mia Goth), among the few other convicts on death row. They’re given a chance to be recycled in a space experiment to extract energy from a black hole. But they’re being experimented on by Dr. Dibs (Juliette Binoche), who is looking for the right genes for artificial insemination. Even she is aroused by Monte.
The “Interstellar” inspiration is when we see the dazzling special effects for a ship entering a black hole; the “Martian” inspiration is when we see the main character survive in an abandoned ship with his daughter; and the “2001” inspiration is when we see “High Life” as an artistic Space Opera.
The performances from Pattinson and Binoche are fantastic, the cinematography by Yorick Le Saux (“Only Lovers Left Alive,” “Personal Shopper”) makes the movie look so radiant, and Denis even had to learn about human spaceflight exploration before filming began. She does a fine job taking this direction.
“High Life” left me pondering on whether or not I should recommend this. On one hand, I was interested in its sexual pleasures for a space opera, but on the other hand, I was concerned about whether movie goers would understand the story or be interested in this direction. I needed time to go over the evidence, but I think I’m gonna stick to my gut on this, and give it a marginal recommendation. But you have to read my review to know why.