23 April 2016

High-Rise successfully captured the atmosphere of the book


I had wanted to see High-Rise for some weeks and I finally managed to get to a late showing on a Saturday night. My enthusiasm came from my love of the book by JG Ballard on which it is based.

High Rise was the third in his trilogy of contemporary dystopian novels Crash (1973), Concrete Island (1974) and High Rise (1975). I bought all of these as they came out and loved them all. Earlier novels had been set in dystopian futures, e.g. one with sever flooding (The Drowned World), but these were set in current times and twisted normal people and normal situations to create worlds that were both very recognisable and very strange. The opening line of High-Rise makes this tension obvious from the very start, "As he sat on his balcony eating the dog, Dr Robert Laing reflected on the unusual events that had taken place within this huge apartment building during the previous three months."

But this is about the film and not the book.

I was in the cosy Odeon Studios Screen 8 which my phone told me I was last in six years earlier to see Red. There were about thirty of us in there which I thought was a good turnout for a film released several weeks previously. When I saw V for Vendetta we were the only two people in a much larger cinema.

Ballard's dystopian novels are very much about how people think and the plot is a way of presenting his characters with different situations to contend with rather than a telling a story about events. The film took this approach too and concentrated on two characters Dr Robert Laing (Tom Hiddleston) and TV documentary maker Richard Wilder (Luke Evans) with strong support from a stella cast that included Jeremy Irons, Sienna Miller, James Purefoy,  Keeley Hawes and Reece Shearsmith. An action film does not need a cast like that but a film about people does.

I do not know where they found the High-Rise block or how much of it was generated on a computer but the brutalist architecture and the interiors were perfect for the story. I would have wanted to live there too. I presume that at least some of it was false as the roof-top garden was unbelievably large. If it does exist then I want to go there.

It was a while since I read the book and while I think that there were some significant differences, possibly different emphasises rather than changes, I was pleased to see some of the original ideas appear, such as opening the film with the opening sentence.

The incidental music was a nice touch too and I nearly screamed with excitement when I heard Amon Duul's Fly United. This comes from their '73 album Vive La Trance which was right for the film. I've bought the album twice.

There were lots and lots of other nice touches throughout the film that either added to the psychological tension, highlighted some aspect of the period or provided a touch of humour. The horse and cheese-knife incident was but one example. 

Overall, like Crash had, I thought that High-Rise captured the atmosphere of the original book and that is what I wanted it to do. It was a highly entertaining film and the two hours flew by.

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