This gradually developed science fiction from septuagenarian Claire Denis (Let The Sunshine In) combines the radical and tenderness in an oddly transfixing way.
In High Life the acclaimed French writer/director (in her English-language debut) connects with a vividly elemental, if retro genre elegance, especially if one considers a space vessel. A fractured, convoluted narrative has more of a spontaneous quality than of rationality in a chronicling of inmates hurtling towards a black hole.
Initially, Robert Pattinson’s Monte is nurturing a baby while doing upkeep on what housed hardened criminals, including himself. The plotting (with its excessive and lurid points) and aura evokes more existential genre examples from the early 1970s like Solaris and Silent Running as a lush greenhouse is aboard what is designed by artist Olafur Eliasson. Among the convicts who are met there is Boyse, an edgy Mia Goth, and Tchemy, a gardener, filled with sincerity by Andre Benjamin, known better from his musical aplomb as Andre 3000.
Oscar-winner Juliette Binoche is crucial to Denis’s way of meting out elements not easy to describe. Her ebony long-coiffed Dr. Dibs appears the de facto leader of the mission with a strong leaning towards an experiment involving procreation. The celestial phenomenon is present but not as important to the provocative auteur as the inward tendencies of the occupants and what led to a dire predicament, the struggle between the honorable and venal. Pattinson excels again after the twisted odyssey resulting from a poorly planned, botched bank robbery that was Good Time with a contemplative charisma. In relating to birth and the vacuity of quietus.
A bonkers, frantic trip in High Life that ultimately has a dramatic payoff may be more mystifying, unpleasant, as well as gut-wrenching than stimulating. Even with an unbridled singularity from the affectations of the conceit as in a chambered set piece that would make a Victorian-Era pioneer like physician and writer Henry ‘Havelock’ Ellis proud.