Verdict: Claire Denis’ visually arresting sci-fi thriller is seductively bold.

French filmmaker Claire Denis makes her English feature debut with High Life. This thriller comes from a script that is set in space and written by Denis and Jean-Pol Fargeau. The well-known Danish-Icelandic conceptual artist Ólafur Eliasson has also worked on the film, designing the light installations of the spaceship. The world premiere of High Life took place at the Toronto International Film Festival in September this year followed by its Indian premiere at the Mumbai Film Festival.

What’s High Life About:

Monte (Robert Pattinson) and an infant named Willow (Scarlett Lindsey) are the only people surviving aboard a spaceship that resembles a floating shipping container on the outside and an urgent care clinic on the inside. Wandering in the middle of deep space, the ship was a part of a project that offers a second chance to a group of death-row inmates. The convicts have been offered a way out of their sentence by joining the mission to scrape as close to a black hole as possible. Dr. Dibs (Juliette Binoche), on the other hand, has different plans for the ship’s residents. Entirely dedicated to her reproductive mission, she develops a fixation towards Monte who voluntarily opts out of her experiments. What follows is a sordid chain of events as the spaceship become claustrophobic, ruthless and home to a perverse obsession.

What Works:

High Life is fascinating, disturbing, sensual, hypnotic, and provocative all at the same time. Even though this is a science fiction film, the French filmmaker doesn’t pay any heed to the physics or even the magical realism that tends to encompass this genre. Whatever expectations you have of the film go out of the window as soon as the first act of Denis’ chronologically jumbled timeline begins.

With extremely minimal dialogue, Robert Pattinson performs a complex and distinctive role as Monte. He has genuine moments of chemistry and connection with the unbelievably natural infant actress Scarlett Lindsey. Everything from François-Renaud Labarthe’s production design and Stuart Staples’ haunting score to Yorick Le Saux’s entrancing cinematography comes together to take us on a seductively unsettling journey. The ultimate result is a film that is kinky and carnal, moving from unusual science fiction to all-out body horror.

What Could’ve Been Better:

High Life is definitely not for the conservative or faint-hearted. This bluntly audacious film will definitely have you wondering what in the world (or in outer-space) you just watched. But there’s no denying that it’s nothing like you’ve ever seen or might ever see on screen.

Why You Should Watch:

High Life is can be considered an embodiment of Claire Denis’ peculiar and rebellious style of filmmaking. Watch it to experience a whole new aspect of world cinema, which only a select few might choose to witness.

Other Movies to Watch at MAMI:

Equally provocative and unapologetic in its approach, Gaspar Noé’s Climax also put a group of people in a confined space under perversely unusual circumstances.