JG Ballard’s 1975 novel, High-Rise, is still as popular as ever and director Ben Wheatley has now taken on the momentous challenge of finally adapting this much-loved book for the big screen. Set in the 1970s, High-Rise follows the exploits of the wealthy residents of a new North-London high-rise development. Dr Robert Laing (Tom Hiddleston) moves to the twenty-fifth floor of this development, hoping to make a fresh start after his sister’s death. The development complex is the brainchild of architect, Anthony Royal (Jeremy Irons), a man who sees high-rise living as the future. However, this is a future which has its own curious hierarchy. As Laing is drawn deeper and deeper into the experience of high-rise living, problems with the building itself and with its residents soon manifest, and the carefully structured existence within the high-rise begins to break down.
High-Rise is not your average tale concerning the shenanigans of the rich and feckless. It brilliantly exploits the more troubling anxieties which have contributed to the enduring popularity of Ballard’s book. The film’s tight structure and attention to even the minutest detail, establishes a pressure-cooker atmosphere against which the drama amongst the high-rise residents unfolds in unforeseen ways.
The performances of Hiddleston and Irons, among others, are more than noteworthy. The actors manage to skilfully weave the anxieties and priorities of their respective characters into the complex network of loyalties which fuel the plot’s impetus. Even amidst the darker aspects of High-Rise, the film brilliantly exploits the comedic possibilities afforded by the original text.
Longstanding fans of Ballard’s original will not be disappointed with this film, and viewers wholly new to the High-Rise phenomenon are likewise in for a huge treat.
Despite the passage of time, the film’s slick grasp of the nuances of the original novel demonstrates the ongoing relevance of the themes and ideas dealt with in the 1975 text. High-Rise is a film that has been well overdue, and this adaption is one which was certainly worth the wait.
Image: Studio Canal