High Life

Claire Denis, France, 2018

They say Denis films are slow-burners; they weasel their way into your consciousness and you only really appreciate them later. I think this is true with her new (first English-language) film. Maybe it’s because you forget all the reasons why it doesn’t quite hang together and just remember the intense, strange atmosphere and the great performances.

Juliette Binoche can do no wrong in my book. And she performs the most beautiful, wild, mysterious, surreal, otherworldy yet very physical (I don’t know quite how to describe it) masturbation scene you will ever see on screen.

Robert Pattinson does intensely moody and a bit psychologically damaged very well; he carries the film, though I can’t say I really connected with the character. There’s a year-old baby who is adorable and so lovingly and lingeringly shot, her perfect squidgyness caressed by the camera. Babies are not something you see close up in cinema too often.

The sound design and look of the film are great. We are in space on a mission of no return with some of humanity’s rejects (death row prisoners), and the hopelessness and desolation are palpable.

Yet I was frustrated that it didn’t explore all the existential issues as much as it could have, focusing instead on sex. Why do we persist with living when there is literally no future? What’s the point? A new life is created, but why? To spend a lifetime on a run-down space craft, drifting through the void before falling into a black hole? What does isolation do to a person’s mental state? It really could have gone further intellectually.

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