High Life

High Life ★★★★

Under the Skin is experimental sci-fi that is easier to digest and discover themes because it's a cycle of predator repetition. Claire Denis' High Life will take repeat viewings to parse because the mood and themes are always evolving. There are a lot of bodily fluids in this film, loads of semen, but also lactation (denied), blood, spit, and vomit; all the internal below the surface items that make the human body run and also continue the species. As High Life involves prisoners who are sent into space as an experiment of drifting through black holes in a suicide mission, destined to live out their days in a space box, the future of humanity is very much in question and on Denis' mind. A space vessel is her portal for thinking about the future of the human vessel. And it's pretty out there, sometimes not very coherent, but increasingly coherent by the end, as if the narrative has found a way to push through into another dimension.

There's a "fuckbox" that's in high demand, there's a man aboard plotting to rape the women, there's a woman aboard who drugs and rapes a celibate man, there's a run in with another floating ship that's one of the freakiest/moodiest set pieces in recent memory. Until we jump forward in time (signified by the growth of white hair on Robert Pattinson's head and the growth of the child who was conceived aboard #7), High Life most reminded me of an artier version of Jean Rollin's The Night of the Hunted, which is not something I had expected at all. There's an extended self pleasure scene (with the aid of new tech), the crew is slowly going mad because their fits of passion cannot be properly controlled due to confinement, thereby enhancing that desire and—when that happens—it spills out into sex and violence. Robert Pattinson, nicknamed the Monk of the ship, does not engage with this passion, so he is the only one who survives other than the child (this is true at the opening of the film, not a spoiler, as High Life moves forwards and backwards in the narrative, even touching down on Earth for flashbacks of small consequence; but a child and solo Pattinson start the film). All those who take more than they give, eventually lose their life force. Much like the fate of the planet, that's been left behind, is also becoming untenable due to taking more from it than giving back to it.

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