TIFF review: High Life

Claire Denis-directed sci-fi film starring Robert Pattinson is often uncomfortable and frequently mind-blowing


HIGH LIFE GALA D: Claire Denis. France/U.S./UK/Poland. 110 min. See listing. Sep 14, 9:45 pm, TBLB 2. Rating: NNNNN


Get ready to enter the Fuckbox with Juliette Binoche. French master Denis’s long-gestating sci-fi project – and English-language debut – is mysterious and provocative from the opening scenes of Robert Pattinson nurturing a baby while doing maintenance on an empty space vessel. Gradually we learn he is aboard a prison ship (designed by artist Olafur Eliasson) once populated with ex-cons who were part of a reproductive experiment overseen by the diabolical Dr. Dibs (Binoche, rocking crazy-long hair extensions).

Any other plot developments are difficult and pointless to describe. High Life progresses more instinctually than logically, shifting between the sensual and the horrific, while Pattinson’s celibate Monte ponders the responsibility that comes with birth and the emptiness of death.

This is very much a prison film that uses the artificiality of the genre conceit – from beautifully designed space suits and astrological phenomenon to over-the-top story points and gruesome violence – to contemplate basic human impulses.

The results are often uncomfortable and frequently mind-blowing.

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