High Life is available to rent or buy.
In an unspecified future, young criminals on death row are sent on a journey of no return; their mission is to gather scientific data on the energy of a black hole. Here the isolation of their trip provides an opportunity for each man and woman to contemplate their crime and repent of their sins. However, as they speed through the universe, their bodies succumb to the effects of deep space travel, their lives controlled by drugs and forced medical experimentation.
Our film opens with Monte (Pattinson) and a baby girl alone and isolated on a drifting ship. Here Willow cries for her Daddy while Monte tries to fix the outer hull, offering the baby audio reassurance from his spacesuit. But how did a man and a newborn baby come to float in the darkness of space alone? Through a series of flashbacks, we are about to find out.
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Anyone familiar with Claire Denis will know the complex themes she instils in her work, ensuring High Life never falls into the standard sci-fi template. Here the isolation of space offers us an uncomfortable portrait of humanity, reproduction and survival. In doing so, High Life strips back the human experience to its base components of sex, reproduction, protection and survival, demonstrating the animalistic nature of all humans in situations beyond their control. This animalistic narrative is coupled with the biblical imagery of creation, the ship’s garden symbolic of a Garden of Eden floating in the cold, dark void of space.
Pattinson’s performance is electrifying from the first scene to the last, as are the stunning ensemble performances, particularly from Binoche as the reproduction-obsessed Dibs. Meanwhile, Yorick Le Saux’s cinematography uses distinctive colour palettes to create feelings of isolation and vulnerability, adding to a sense of impending doom as the floating prison spirals out of control, its inhabitants lost somewhere between extinction and creation. The result is one of the past five years most distinctive science fiction thrillers.