Movie – High Rise

Adapted from James Graham Ballard’s visionary dystopian novel by screenwriter Amy Jump and director Ben Wheatley, the movie High Rise portrays the lives of people from different socio-economic and different backgrounds living in an apartment of 40 floors where the floors divide the social class of the residents.The higher the floor the wealthier and privileged the residents are. The building inhabits socialising environments such as a gym, super market and a swimming pool, which ultimately creates an environment that fulfils most needs of the residents and eliminates the need to leave the building except for daily work. High Rise does not have a fixed protagonist however fluctuates between Doctor Robert Laing and a documentarian Richard Wilder.
 
The movie begins with Dr Laing narrating how he feel in a third person and shows him cooking a dogs leg, thus achieves the idea of the movie being disturbing and not utopian early with the viewers. High Rise starts of with introducing the different characters that live on different floors and how distinct the lives are within the higher and lower floors where Dr Laing does not entirely fit in with neither classifications and that he is of some sort in between the lower and the higher classed residents. Furthermore, the viewers are then introduced to the character Royal who is referred to as the ‘Architect’ since he designed the building, however is treated as a God like person, as a creator, and most of the residents have never seen him. The tension within the lower floors commence when power cuts occur on lower floors and in some floor the lights go out. It seems that, the darkness that triggers the rebellion of the lower class residents, is a metaphor for what could push humanity over the edge. Soon, the movie creates an isolated environment of a modern apartment that transformed the residents in becoming an aggressive community which the people carry out violent and sexual behaviour that they have been repressing through their “normal” lives.

A dystopia is “an imagined place or state in which everything is unpleasant or bad, typically a totalitarian or environmentally degraded one” and is the opposite of a utopia where everything is pleasant. Additionally, modernism and modernists believe in a universal truth and argue rational thinking with science and reason for mankind to evolve, while postmodernism is the belief of having the irrationality of things and that there is not and could not be a universal truth. It is argued that the postmodernist era was distinguished through the development of technology and its utilisation in art and literature. Thus, High Rise beyond doubt sets a postmodern dystopian world and portrays the consequences of inequality between the hierarchies.

The distinction between the inequality within the hierarchical order of the High Rise residents can be seen within the scene of the lower classed residents protesting the electricity and water shortage. The residents complain to a man who clearly is not bothered with the problems the lower classed residents are face, while through the movie it is clearly seen that the residents of higher floors do not have to ask twice for their wishes and demands to be met. Additionally, after the rebellion breaks, and the downfall of the structure begins, the residents start stealing goods from the supermarket whilst the residents of the higher floors enter the super market for the first time and question what they are supposed to be doing. At first, it seems as the lower class gets more affected by the post-modern approach however, towards the end of the movie its clear that the post-modern approach affects every socio-economic background.

Additionally, although the movie High Rise is mostly dominated by men, the women play a critically important role for a post-Freudian condition of the buildings regulations. Throughout the movie, there are many unpleasant scenes of sexuality and violence, where women get beaten and raped. During a scene between Royal and Wilder, Royal refers to women as properties and states that he has no interest in Wilder’s properties. At some point, it is clear to the viewer that it does not matter who the woman is to the man for him to have a sexual encounter with her, however, as the movie progresses towards the end, joining Dr Laing is mostly women characters on the top floor who have been treated as a sex object, or have been ignored wives throughout the movie.

High Rise is a significant eye opener and an example of how inequality and inadequate regulation could lead to the destruction of a society where humanity when desperate enough can transform to a primitive, violent and chaotic state. The High Rise building itself, is a representation of the entire community it hosts and the downfall and destruction it brings. It also relates to modern day issues, where the characters would not interfere in the violence that was happening, instead, would silently watch the events happen until it affected them, which can also be argued that it relates to the current modern state of the world, where some events around the world only get watched silently without anyone interfering or helping. The movie portrays how disturbing human behaviour can become, however, after certain repression and traumatic events, it also shows how the disturbing and destructive behaviour of people can reshape into an ordinary behaviour.

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