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  High Life Space Dad
Year: 2018
Director: Claire Denis
Stars: Robert Pattinson, Juliette Binoche, André Benjamin, Mia Goth, Agata Buzek, Lars Eidinger, Claire Tran, Ewan Mitchell, Gloria Obianyo, Scarlette Lindsey, Jessie Ross, Victor Bannerjee, Juliette Picollot, Mikolaj Gruss, Weronika Wachowska, Mikolaj Zeman
Genre: Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Monte (Robert Pattinson) is out in space, on a spacecraft that is on a course to research black holes in the universe, but it takes a long time to get there, and plenty can happen in the years it takes to reach the destination. He, like everyone else on board, is a criminal - his crime is murder, committed when he was a boy – and as time has stretched on he has come to realise, as have his fellow crew members, that they will not be returning to Earth, indeed, there may not be an Earth to return to once they fulfil their mission. This has driven the explorers insane, and now Monte is the sole survivor - well, almost, for there is a baby present to who he must look after. His daughter.

Claire Denis, a darling of the critics if not the mainstream moviegoer, could not be accused of taking the easy path when she created her fictions, and High Life was no exception. With reports of walkouts dogging its theatrical release, it appeared once again she had crafted a cult movie adored by a minority yet shunned by the masses, and you may suspect she liked it that way, despite her willingness to explain herself in great detail whenever the opportunity arose to discuss her work. No matter how much sense her films made to her, for most people they were impenetrable, both as storylines and as far as they could detect any reason for her to have directed such a thing.

Yet if you really wanted to know what she meant, simply go to those interviews for it was all there; however, the impression was that the majority did not want to know, and were content to reject her out of hand as a pretentious artist with no connection to whatever was going on in their lives. Obviously, Denis was never going to be widely accepted, but do not let that put you off if you fancied a challenge, as there were rewards here for those who persevered, and should you give in to this effort's glacial pace and often disturbing content, a curious combination, then you may get more out of it than you would have anticipated had you merely allowed the naysayers to dictate the conversation.

What was science fiction if not the stage to play out musings on the big questions of existence, as even the most facile rockets and robots item had the capacity to throw up something evocative to chew over, should you be so inclined. With High Life, the questions were of contrasting between the incredible technology humanity has developed and the basic, some say base, needs of their bodies and natural impulses (a lot of focus on fluids here, especially bodily fluids). The effect those amazing advances that set us on a course to the future, and potentially the stars, were rendered mundane when they were used to replace interactions that were previously taken for granted themselves, the communication that would be part of a normal day reduced to anger and gnomic utterances you had to be part of a clique to appreciate.

The clique in this were those criminals, who all knew why they were there, though the experiments the head doctor (Juliette Binoche) carried out on everyone, including herself, initially seemed to be something to do with reproduction without intercourse, yet as time goes on we can ponder this might be an excuse to give these rejects something to pass the years in space, where the effects of the travel means they age very slowly. Over and over sex is bastardised from its natural act, whether that be the doctor pleasuring herself with a machine in a cubicle or the inevitable act of rape, though the experiments can be regarded as that atrocity as well and may be part of the punishment. But even murderers have motivations, and Monte finds his in looking after the baby a perversion of science brought into the world as his daughter, someone to bond with and share a cosmic experience that is as simple as it is profound, literally sharing the same space. Like a weird mix of Silent Running, Solaris and Disney's The Black Hole, not all of which Denis may have seen, High Life's meditations were not so obscure, more an appeal to your essential decency in a harsh, unforgiving world. Music by Stuart A. Staples - even the end credits are kind of cosmic.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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