Written and published for Starskify – 19th April 2016
Psychology Doctor Robert Laing is new to life in the High Rise, recently moved to the 25th floor of a newly developed tower block in London. Bound to the tower by a hierarchy of class and power, Laing soon fits right at home, pushing away his somewhat enigmatic past and welcoming the conventional and totally hectic environments of the many floors. When harmony turns to chaos, the social order takes control and lower classes revolt against the forceful occupants of the higher command.
Adapted from the 1975 novel by J G Ballard, the visuals we witness are far from science fiction, yet there’s an aura of modernity that is out of place for the era. Residents are yearning for the future, surrounding themselves in sleek environments and far-fetched architecture, which ultimately reduces to misconduct and devastation. The feature manages to reflect on the themes of both poverty and prosperity simultaneously, the aesthetics alone accomplishes this. and Initially established as a state of the art tower, (discounting the opening prologue) it displays a mass marketed society of order residing towards anarchy. The scenes are familiar to that of 21st century living, shockingly bizarre yet still relatable. It’s a thrilling journey of self-loathing, power crazy motives and unclear intentions.
Existing in a somewhat retro, period territory, Tom Hiddleston’s portrayal of protagonist Robert Laing is a solid depiction of a solitary and reserved man of taste. Identified as “a perfect specimen”, we don’t get to experience much more from him in terms of development or understanding, yet this is similarly reflected within the entirety of the story.
When the other characters are considered, the mix of personas range across a spectrum of social division. From a struggling mother, an out of control husband to an alluring neighbour and her inquisitive son, there are lots of diverse characteristics to explore, despite their lack of growth throughout.
A Surrealist’s Dream
What lacks in this relatively disorienting dystopian view of the future is the consistent uncertainty of plot and lack of divulgence towards the audience. Throughout, we are left out of certain details and only exposed to montages of scenes, passing the time and concealing the cause of the consequential downfall of the residents’ livelihoods. Events are left unexplained and subtle alterations of contemporary sustenance are overshadowed. The surrealist depiction authorises a level of manic, crude exploits, with no restraints against the visual explicit excitement that the occupants endure. The main defective element is the lack of communication. For a moment, it can be accepted and the audience would willingly greet the jumbled array of movement and disorder, yet the endurance surely does wear off once the occurrences don’t appear to falter.
Overall, an intriguing piece that doesn’t aim to bore with details and potentially uninteresting political aspects of the alternative environments. Visually appealing and absorbing, with capabilities of high adrenaline and thrill that provides entertaining performance. It may not be the most diversely exploited plot, yet this allows an easily viewable depiction of glamour and distress and their associations with one another.