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High Rise

Neurosurgeon Dr. Laing buys an apartment in a posh brutalist high-rise. When the buildings facilities fail, an orgy of violence ensues. A wild adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s cult novel.


Dr. Laing (Tom Hiddleston) is self-satisfied as he grills a dog for dinner. The beginning shows how everything ends and the rest of the film is about how it got to this point. In the mid 70s Laing buys an apartment on the 25th floor of an impressive apartment complex. Society’s elite live here. Laing is a neurosurgeon and his apartment is in the middle of the building. The Architect (Jeremy Irons) lives at the very top, a man with a vision. Beneath him are the elite, which Laing doesn’t really belong to, and under Laing are the commoners: people with children, journalists, and similar plebs. Impressive brutalist architecture and elegant concrete columns divide the living spaces. There’s a pool and a supermarket: it’s like a luxurious implementation of Curbusier’s Unité d'Habitation idea. Laing is invited to a party at the Architect’s early on but he doesn’t fit in when he arrives: it’s a baroque costume party with a chamber music version of ABBA’s “S.O.S” playing in the background. The bizarre pop lamentation becomes the film’s leitmotif. Later, when all the building’s facilities are deserted and marauding troupes are hunting for sex and food, Portishead’s version of the song can be heard. The party in the top floor is countered by a party in the lower floors that is far more excessive and violent. You have to make an effort to keep up appearances upstairs. The electricity goes off in the lower floors and social conventions fall apart soon after.
Ben Wheatley’s adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s 1975 novel is a thoroughly unrestrained film. Those expecting a briskly told story with relatable characters will be disappointed but if you are a fan of the cinematic excess of Ken Russel, HIGH RISE is the right address for you. Wheatley, who has already shown interest in the normal citizen’s potential for violence in KILL LIST and SIGHTSEERS, shows a numbskulled, stratified patriarchal society in the midst of their relished self-destruction. There’s a rebel but it doesn’t end well for him. Laing is surely no rebel. He's in the middle, where everyone wants to be.

Tom Dorow

Translation: Elinor Lewy


Original title: High Rise
USA 2015, 119 min
Genre: Action, Drama, Science Fiction
Director: Ben Wheatley
Author: Amy Jump
DOP: Laurie Rose
Montage: Amy Jump, Ben Wheatley
Music: Clint Mansell
Distributor: DCM Filmdistribution
Cast: Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irons, Luke Evans, Sienna Miller
FSK: 16
Release: 30.06.2016




  • OV Original version
  • OmU Original with German subtitles
  • OmeU Original with English subtitles

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