According to the novel of the same name that it’s based on, the residents chose to withdraw from the outside world and live solely inside a luxurious high rise apartment. As technical failures make living inside a self-contained world difficult, people eventually go batshit crazy.
High-Rise is committed to adapt the book after two failed attempts. From the trailer alone, the production value promises an international film festival movie material – a talented cast, distinctive set design, an intriguing story that requires a long attention span, and stylized visuals.
How these elements are used to tell a story though, is where the movie falls apart. As the characters spiral out of control it becomes a string of stylized but absurd meaningless set-ups that’s meant to generate shock value.
The movie doesn’t explore the apartment’s social organization and how its residents still choose to stay despite the escalating violence. Instead, the plot is more concerned in throwing the cast of caricature characters into absurd moments. In one scene as the architect’s wife bends over asking to get fucked hard in the ass, one guy whispers to another and the two dance to the camera.
These people are driven by a crude and reductive interpretation of the social class they belong to. The elite gets high, drunk and fuck each other senseless while they orchestrate schemes to toy with the lower classes. The working class fight to survive personified by a raging brute named Wilder. The middle ones adapt as its literal stand-in Dr Laing navigate parties. Somehow he becomes immune to the whole anarchy by staying inside his room filled with boxes labelled with sex and regrets.
As a result, the plot jumps from one absurd set piece to another with filled with violence and orgies. The director uses a variety of techniques to highlight these moments such as slow-motion and multi-colored filters, but they just look like nonsensical clips.
The High-Rise shows crazy pretty people in a fucked up world, but as to why we should care for any them and what this means for us, remains in the pages of its source material.
High-Rise is a beautifully staged but incoherent arthouse film that dilutes its source material as it focuses on style rather than substance.