MovieChat Forums > High Life (2018) Discussion > Ethereal existential brilliance

Ethereal existential brilliance

How much do we really care about other people?

Claire Denis' nihilistic sci-fi film is principality about morality, (de)humanization, social conscience and living in the now. But it's also about isolation, procreation, nature v nurture, carnal desires and incarceration. Early on, there is a conversation about taboos - the ending of the film certainly raises a few questions about that. There are even nods to sustainability and climate change. This film draws on influences of older films and is an ethereal, ambiguous experience. It is not an action based Sci-Fi thriller.

There are elements of Tarkovsky throughout, particularly' Stalker' and 'Solaris'. The themes of dogs may represent loyalty or master and slave type relationship. Comparisons with 'Annihilation', '2001' and 'Arrival' might also be made. It's violent, ascerbic and at times distressing. But it also has a real beauty about it, owing mostly to some superb cinematography from Yorick Le Saux and Tomasz Naumiuk.

Pattinson and Binoche are great, as they always are - but I thought Mia Goth stole the show as Boyse. This film will divide audiences but I thought it was an absolute gem.



I can't agree with you.

I took the mission as mostly BS sold to future citizens "for their own good." There was social upheaval on Earth, at the same time as a movement toward space and "mercy" toward prisoners. Thus, they sent people on bogus or hopeless missions into space. I think this is borne out by the ship with only dogs on it. Of what use would such a mission be? Probably a stab at population control, mixed with the usual wasteful government programs (esp. in the EU, where this was written and produced).

I took the ending as a second chance for Monte and Willow. A new beginning "somewhere" and "somewhen," since time and space scramble entering a Black Hole. I doubt we're supposed to know where they are and what they're entering. Probably another universe. But it looked hopeful.

Because of the unhinted-at jump in time, I didn't figure Willow to be his teen daughter 'til right after the "Dog Ship" incident. I thought I just hadn't kept track of all the prisoners on the ship. They were basically anonymous as it was. I just remembered their unique looks.

Continuity sucked. In the beginning, Monte lugs all the bodies to the air lock to eject them, where they unrealistically fall rather than float. Later, we see them die differently, e.g. the nurse ejecting herself and the black guy apparently committing suicide in the garden... or something.

I had to wait for the credits to get most of the names, but this may have been intentional. Their identities would not matter much as doomed ex-prisoners.

Humor I found was Willow misunderstanding a soccer (aka football) match as a religious rite. I think many here on Earth do that.

I wouldn't spend too many grey cells trying to figure it out. This was produced with tons of tax money, so who knows what all went into it and what reaction they were going for? Maybe just propaganda to sell the EU space missions. Oh, and as you said "Climate Change" - or whatever new name for it they will cook up to keep people scared.


Most of the bodies were kept by Monte in cryogenic freezer and then discarded by him.

You're right about the ending - they might even go on to become the heroes that they were sent out to be in the first place.

The sport on the tv is rugby not soccer but your point is still valid.

It's very much a cerebral take on the human condition. It's not a lineal look at EU space missions or anything like that.



I stand corrected on the sport... I didn't see anyone play and am not familiar with rugby.

I saw Monte unhook the bodies in the beginning, but also saw them individually meet other fates, e.g. Boyse flying into the Black Hole. Yet, he remarks "light as a feather" when he discarded her body. There's no way it returned to the ship.

However, maybe this is a clue to what happened at the end. Maybe they enter some kind of time loop and come back and relive the mission for the Nth time.

...or it's just bad continuity or "writing by committee."


But was Boyse's body one of the ones he put in a spacesuit and threw out the airlock? I'm not sure it was. I think he only discarded the bodies that had died on the ship.


Boyse stole a ship and died in a black hole so I can't see how her body was disposed of. And I didn't see a time loop playing a part in this movie at all which includes dialogue. Would have to watch it again to be absolutely certain though as this was not an easy watch.


You make a good point about continuity and I don’t think this film was great, but I did like it fine overall (6/10). The falling rather than floating was actually realistic though. The ship was continuously accelerating (and then, partway through the voyage, decelerating after turning around to face the opposite direction) at 1g. So anything that went out the airlock would fall from the ship’s perspective, just like dropping something out a window on Earth. This was illustrated at the beginning when he drops a wrench while working outside the ship and it falls into the void.


I connected with this film just as much, this film and many others of European cinema (especially French) and Malick's recent films are journeys into the future of filmmaking or telling stories through various other forms, by giving us space not unlike that of a painting to explore our own projections upon it, our dreams, desires, traumas and subconscious memories, I love films like this the same way like I love Patrice Leconte's films for instance, it does not expain everything, it offers glimpses, gentle touches, colors and shapes, ideas yet to be finished by our own participation. I found this film actually very beautiful, not particularly gloomy or depressing, it is reflecting the journey into the unknown, the emptiness of the universe, as well as our own mind, and at the end into a new birth, symbolized by the void, the black hole, we're meant to encounter things that don't make "sense", only make us "feel" something, very much like during a deep meditation, it uncovers hidden things in our subconscious. I feel like it shows the wall many humans need to come across in order to reach the state of emptiness and bliss, I found the appearance of black hole at the end as a mere symbol of a higher life, the bliss itself, the whole film is all about the transition and transformation, being basically prisoners feels more like the idea of all of us being prisoners of our own body, our materialism. These kinds of things is very healthy to bring to our consciousness whenever we watch a film like this, even just to our own self, to ask who we are, what we hold in our own hearts and souls, what is it that we see, even when we keep them to our own selves, it is worthy of a little self exploration.

Anyway, the film is certainly a reflection of our own times, of fears of many sections of the society, but also great beautiful transformation happening on Earth.


Brilliantly put ^


You are reading way too much into this


The way I would put it, I am just being myself, and what is a man with no self introspection, a narcissist? No film, no art can be evaluated more than ourselves through it, that's how I've always seen the purpose of any "thing" in life, I believe quite a few filmmakers like Claire Denis tend to engage a similar frame of mind when making such films, what's the purpose of art if not to ask us what we can bring into it, instead of us arrogantly asking it or filmmakers what it can bring to us instead, and if it can't bring what we demand, it fails, instead of us, aren't we supposed to be as much artists as them participating on the other receiving end? Nonetheless, any review of a film is vapid distraction to me if it can't reveal the reviewer more than the film itself anyway.
There's so much more to this film than what others see, if there's more to us without being like others..