16 June 2016 | Prismark10
JG Ballard's dystopian science fiction novels have long been regarded as being unfilmable. Ironically it was Steven Spielberg who first made a film of one of his books, the autobiographical Empire of the Sun which was also more conventional.
In High Rise the building clad in some kind of neo 1970s decor is really the star as it represents the social strata. A society in decay. The film opens where there has been a total nihilistic breakdown amongst the occupants where we see a man roasting a dog's leg before we jump back three months earlier.
Dr Robert Laing (Tom Hiddleston) is a middle class doctor, almost an every-man who is at ease both going up and down the social classes in the tower block. He is helped by Charlotte Melville (Sienna Miller) a sexy neighbour who helps Laing get to the upper floors where tastes are more refined. Better parties, music, swimming pool and restaurants for example.
Richard Wilder (Luke Evans whose get up reminds me a lot of actor Stanley Baker) is a truculent documentary maker who lives near the ground floor with his wife and children amongst the rest of the block's poorer tenants. Wilder is aware and resentful of the inequality that exists in building. He has to put up with electricity outages, lifts not working properly, inferior restaurants, shops, parties. Wilder wants to expose the building's architect Anthony Royal (Jeremy Irons) who lives on the top floor and he also happens to be Laing's occasional squash partner.
As we head towards hedonism, one-upmanship, sex fuelled violence the narrative structure of the film breaks down. The descent into madness is too rapid as Laing suddenly starts to paint his room and himself. The film becomes disjointed although we see some of the upper floor residents who wish to Balkanise the lower floors and re-organise the place more to their benefit.
It is as the novel was just too big and intricate to just chew off and director Ben Wheatley did not have the budget and resources to do it justice.
The film ends with the words of Mrs Margaret Thatcher former Prime Minister of Britain who did so much to ramp up the divisions between rich and poor in the 1980s.