“High Life” (MA) *** and a half
WHEN George Lucas released “Star Wars” in 1977, my review described it as an outer space western.
Cinema owners around the world have since then salivated in anticipation of the next episode in that franchise. It spawned many stupid, fantastical, awful, same-old same-old fantasy monster-packed movies set in outer space, and a couple of attempts by more serious filmmakers to travel beyond earth’s orbit with stories that comply with the immutable laws of physics.
French writer/director Claire Denis has tried, with some serious attention to verity, to make an outer-space movie free of battles, monsters or other law-breaking events. That’s a brave endeavour. Sadly, it’s not very entertaining.
The story unfolds on a boxy-shaped space-craft carrying a crew of criminals offered the chance to avoid execution by crewing a scientific mission that would take nearly two earth decades and which would involve a critical issue in any plan to save humanity from extinction by colonising another astral body.
The issue? Human reproduction. That makes the film sexy, doesn’t it. Not really. “High Life” offers no erotic buzz. When it comes down to showing what this part of him does to that part of her, it gives us to understand what’s happening by implication, avoiding both prurience or prudishness.
The ethical considerations underlying this objective don’t get tangled with interactions between characters. Nor does the film demand that we go along with the possibility of colonising other galaxies or parts thereof. Our species has evolved over millennia to exist within specific environmental parameters – temperature, water, oxygen and gravity being the most inflexible.
Astro-physicists have discovered much about other astral bodies. But none has so far suggested that it might suit our essential needs. In “High Life”, Robert Pattinson and Juliette Binoche head a cast playing characters aware that their lives conform to terrestrial imperatives and that they will never reach their destination much less survive on it.