High Life

I love Claire Denis. Love White Material, Chocolat, 35 Shots of Rum, Let The Sunshine In – you can read my interview with her on that movie here.

While High Life isn’t her best work, it has ,of course, loads of idea to ponder and gorgeous visuals to gawp at.

It’s her first English-language feature, too – based around a fascinating concept, of a convict space ship whose inmates are sent up to orbit forever instead of the death penalty, and forced to undergo sexual experiments under the watch of ship’s doctor Juliette Binoche, while they head to a black hole to find energy sources to prolong humanity.

There are haunting images, such as bodies hanging like suspended fruit in space, and there’s a ‘sex box’ a bit like Woody Allen’s orgasmatron in Sleeper, only more explicit. “I look like a witch,” breathes a writhing Binoche.

There’s a space garden, fecund with herbs and squashes but there are confusing  – hey, this is Claire Denis, so I expect ellipsis – details about implants in fingertips and violent rape scenes. 

It’s a battle between reproduction, procreation, chastity, sexuality and societal control. Robert Pattinson delivering a mature performance of considerable charisma while Mia Goth and Andre Benjamin feel underused to me. The film, designed partly by Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson, looks great and there’s something to do with sex and black holes and the energy of the universe which keeps your eyeballs glued to it… 

As ever with Denis, it’s in a category and a class of its own.