TIFF Report: High-Rise


Who’s in it: Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irons, Sienna Miller, Elisabeth Moss, James Purefoy, Luke Evans

 Who’s behind it: TIFF favourite Ben Wheatley, three out of four of whose previous films have screened at the festival in past years. High-Rise is based on a 1975 novel by British author J.G. Ballard and the screenplay was adapted by Wheatley’s frequent collaborator and wife, Amy Jump.

Who’ll love it: Sci-fi fans who’d like to see what a dystopian society looks like when it isn’t being inhabited solely by angsty, good-looking teens, and Wheatley fans curious to know what the director can do with a big budget and a big cast.

What’s it about: High-Rise is a retro-futuristic story of class unrest that takes place in an alternate version of London. Hiddleston is cast as a doctor who’s bought into the idea of life in an exclusive and isolated luxury apartment community, Irons plays the mercurial architect who designed it. As both the building and social order begin to disintegrate the garbage piles up, supplies dwindle, and the upper class residents go to war with the upper-middle class that lives below. Set in 1975, the film calls to mind both Margaret Thatcher’s England (despite the fact that Thatcher wasn’t yet in office) and the 2009 Toronto garbage strike, though Wheatley’s trash piles are far more cinematic.

What the filmmaker says about it: “There’s lots of sex, violence, adult content… and dancing.” — Wheatley extolling his new film’s finest virtues.

What the cast says about it: “Ballard is interested in scratching away at civilization… he’s deeply curious about who we are in extremity and how extreme circumstances test our good manners and the veneer of sophistication that we have. There’s something invigorating about taking that torch from Ballard and trying to honour his courage as an artist.” — Tom Hiddleston on going to uncomfortable places to play his High-Rise character.

Most surprising song in the film’s score: A classical cover of ABBA’s “SOS” done by Portishead.

Why you should see it: High-Rise is for Hiddleston what Shame was for Michael Fassbender. These aren’t films to see because you love Hiddleston’s Marvel work or Fassbender’s X-Men movies. High-Rise is for Wheatley fans, for Ballard fans, and to some degree, for fans of Stanley Kubrick. Wheatley cited the director as an influence on this latest film and it’s evident in the way he slows down some of the more violent scenes and sets them to classical music. Very A Clockwork Orange. It’s fun to look at—in case you didn’t already pick that up from the Kubrick comparison, which Wheatley modestly brushes off with a self-deprecating “I wish.”

When you can see it: High-Rise had its world premiere at TIFF on Sunday night. If you missed that screening you’ve got one more chance to see it at the festival. The film will be shown today, Monday September 14 at 3pm at the Ryerson theatre.

Check out the poster below: