Very much a story full of highs and lows, High Life from arthouse-y director Claire Denis definitely isn’t a sidestep from the expectations you’d have. There’s no shortage of lingering shots, longing facial expressions or intensely designed colour palettes in it and that offers plenty of chances to the filmmakers to do unusual things. Depending on the viewer, those unusual things will either stun or startle. The film certainly opens up a lot about human feelings even if at times it’s done over-dramatically.
Right from the start you appreciate how immersive everything feels. Sets, sounds, music and colours take a viewer to a place that you don’t want to look away from which is always splendid. The spaceship that we are lumped in with the characters feels familiar from other space movies but it’s still used in its own way (”The Box”, am I right?). High Life’s structure is quite unpredictable which makes the ride way more fun than with other films that have similarly disturbing imagery attached. That unpredictability also makes the script and plot feel fresh as it never preaches to you how you should feel about everything that’s happening, instead it gives you a starting point for your own thought process.
With all that said, the movie does come off as over-directed. Often what Denis decides to have in the frame is neither essential or aesthetically pleasing, it just something for the sake of ”more is more” when the script already feels elevated enough. What ever bodily fluids you imagine for a space travel, you will see them even from people that barely have any effect on the particular scene. There are parts and sequences mixed with those weird choices that drag pretty badly so sometimes you will want to jump to the black hole to look for the next scene. Good performances from Robert Pattinson, Mia Goth, Juliette Binoche and Andre Benjamin will keep you engaged for most of it nevertheless.
Smileys: Atmosphere, structure, screenplay
Frowneys: Pacing, directing
The Box will haunt you.