Friday, January 27, 2017

High Rise (2015)

Social classes are a vertical divide of the world; High Rise quite literally made the world into a building.    And like life itself the building experiences operational stresses; the residents instead of getting their acts together act only according to the meaning attached to the height of their floors to the ground. 

At first I thought it was a conventional story, apocalyptic; but lead character Robert Laing (Tom Hiddleston) was narrating calmly about only the building, and that its current state as ideal.  In the opening sequence he nonchalantly cooked his dog; roasted it. He looked serious turning the dog leg so slowly making sure it cooks evenly.  Western countries have an aversion to cooking dogs unlike mine so immediately that stood out, but strangely the image did not exude desperation or hunger. 

The story then cut back to 3 months in the past when the building was new and pristine and Laing had just moved in - so nuclear war didn’t turn the world to shit. Then what did?  

Electrical trouble escalated to parties which for some reason went out of hand until it all, ever increasingly, spirals down. The relationship between cause and effect was never clear and that does not speak well of the plot if it had one at all.  Only by the end did the trouble end up with violence.  The visuals were exaggerated, surreal. 

Rich don’t party (I guess so) like an 18th century royal court. Realistic story telling would never have trash scattered all over building halls with residents just walking by. Flashback notwithstanding the enclosed foul air alone would render the building unlivable in all that thrash. And washing clothes in the swimming pool? 

I googled for a definition that might explain the style and I came up with expressionism makes sense. If I’m right, going by the definition of expressionism – a style of painting, music, or drama in which the artist or writer seeks to express emotional experience rather than impressions of the external world – then the point of High Rise is to show how wrong a class war is in a troubled world (building).  

There was a shot of one of the higher floored residents going through the same thrash filled lobby which makes this definition feel right.  The wealthy are often thought of as unaffected because they could always but their way in to foreign country or construct bigger walls; that made the thrash filled lobby shot perfect.

But then the movie would argue that the term war was never used instead it was always party, a children’s party. Why is that? I’m lost for meaning again. Noticeably the higher floor parties had orgies and the lower floor parties were uniquely sniffing cocaine amid the usual revelry.  Two more to add to the list of emotionally inducing visuals I never learned point of or what in real life it is alluding to.  

Thankfully once reaching the end I finally came close to an answer or at least the right question. The quote below which I copied from the book version as seen on Goodreads may be the key. 

Richard Wilder (Luke Evans) had described it of Laing almost at the end the movie. While not acted out in verbatim in the movie version of the quote still retained the spirit of the words:

“A new social type was being created by the apartment building, a cool, unemotional personality impervious to the psychological pressures of high-rise life, with minimal needs for privacy, who thrived like an advanced species of machine in the neutral atmosphere. This was the sort of resident who was content to do nothing but sit in his over-priced apartment, watch television with the sound turned down, and wait for his neighbors to make a mistake.” 

Actually in reading this book version quote did I only get (I hope) the right question should be.  I earlier thought the negative that was always expressed is the disunity even in an environment as small as a building. 

Then when Richard Wilder said his line I thought maybe the film is against neutrality, which is not a unique topic.  Neutrality is evil.  Laing should have made a stand.  But as earlier mentioned there was no clear relationship between cause and effect so what solution could Laing possibly offer.  Trash filled halls should have stopped it all. It's an effect no one would want to linger for very long.

What the book quote felt to me is that the point of the story is not the destroyed because the people can’ get along; it is that the world, its living conditions, have created a new breed of desensitized humanity.  Isn't that a chicken or the egg kind of situation?

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