Sci fi films are probably weirder than most. Films like Eden Log, Upstream Colour and Altered States manage to match extreme strangeness with a compelling story or characters. High Rise very much attempts the same, bringing together actors like Tom Hiddlestone, Elisabeth Moss and Jeremy Irons to tell the tale of J. G. Ballard’s dystopian novel.
Like the book, it’s set in the late 1970s. That means wide lapels, chunky haircuts and lots and lots of brown. The premise sees Hiddlestone’s character, a doctor, move into a foreboding new apartment block. Once settled, he soon become engaged with the building’s fascinating social hierarchies, encompassing the single mothers and broken homes struggling with debt on the lower floors and the wild and aristocratic parties of the floors above. This beautiful but thematically dark setting also offers regular power outages, causing yet more tension between the colourful and twitchy residents.
This tension eventually blows up into all-out anarchy, featuring suicide, murder and rape as the social and actual fabric of the building begins to rapidly disintegrate. The presentation style is even weirder than the plot, often deviating into artistic montages and stark non-sequitur. If you’re attracted to the dynamic of works like Metropolis or Bioshock, and you’re willing to embrace (or at least tolerate) the intensely surreal format, then there is definitely something here for you. For everyone else, you might be best off elsewhere.