This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Adam’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
High Life is most definitely not a film to watch high, unless dread and humans succumbing to their animal instincts makes you laugh uncontrollably. Fortunately for me, nihilism with a space backdrop usually stimulates my pleasure receptors. Sheesh, that sentence was borderline pretentious just like this film.
By no means that is an insult; it walks that fine line, that’s very, incredibly, difficult to traverse. Kubrick and Tarkovsky were masters at this tight rope walk, if you lean too heavy on obscurity you get Lynch so you lose some people, but on the reverse, you hold people’s hand and they think it was too obvious of a plot.
Speaking of plot, it’s generally solid, I quite like films/stories that mix up their timeline, in this case, we start from the middle of the end with Robert Pattinson with a baby, showing heartfelt scenes with him teaching and caring for the said baby. With more scenes unraveling what happened to the ship and its crew. I wanna give props here because it’s quite difficult to keep an audience engaged when you already know most of the crew is dead. Instead, I was enraptured to see what was the undoing of the crew.
We find out that they were inmates on death row, accepting this suicide mission for this experiment on human adaptation to long, isolated, and cramped surroundings of a space voyage. It’s reminiscent of 2001, though the only qualm I give it here is the lack of real character development/arcs. Most of the characters were simply one dimensional to service the theme of the film. Pattinson’s character, perhaps grows, but only on a superficial level, he was a criminal but now transcends the rest through a life of abstinence and restraint, unlike the morally corrupted crew.
This is key, I believe, to the themes of the film. Since he was the father of the baby (he was technically raped, but that’s a separate discussion), through his repression of his primal instincts, he was able to reproduce a baby, while the others faulted. At the same time, nihilism seems to rein anyways, because what does it matter to prolong the human species if you are stuck in a tin can rotating a black hole of death? Claire Denis doesn’t seem to fully commit to the idea, but I think it was fitting.
I haven’t seen any of Denis’s other films, but this one makes me want to go through her other stuff. There’s a lot of beautiful imagery embedded in the film, especially the title card with astronauts floating lifelessly.
At the very least, I know I will be thinking a while on this one, and maybe I’ll add more to this review if I have any more connections to make. And that’s why I personally enjoyed it.