HIGH-RISE, DIR. BY BEN WHEATLEY
GREAT BRITAIN 2015
Until now, the novel High-Rise, published in 1975, has defied all attempts to be turned into a film and has met with varying opinions. For some, it’s one of J. C. Ballard’s best novels – even a masterpiece ¬– while others see it as excessively ambitious. This rift continues to affect Wheatley’s film version. The film either seduces viewers or repels them – in-between reactions, such as indifference, are unlikely. High-Rise tells the story of a doctor named Robert Laing who moves into a high-rise apartment building for wealthy people and then begins to observe the degradation of the community of people living in it. It begins like a brutally dark comedy and then swiftly transforms into a dystopian vision of the future, ending as a seemingly typical slasher film. The soundtrack is a mixture of ABBA, Portishead and Bach. Associations with A Clockwork Orange and American Psycho are very apt. Part music video, part masterpiece, its chaos successfully expresses decadence.
QUEEN OF THE DESERT, DIR. BY WERNER HERZOG,
USA, MAROKO 2015
This isn’t the same Herzog we remember from his best films, but it’s still Herzog. There are several recognisable traits: wonderful cinematography, an oriental atmosphere (in his slightly idealised version – in this case, Iran), and unique story-telling. The film’s heroine, Gertrude Bell (played by Nicole Kidman), is a British traveller, writer, politician and archaeologist travelling alone through the Middle East. She fits well into Herzog’s classic collection of characters who break free of social norms. When she travels, the elements of her biography ideally fit into Herzog’s patents, but when she experiences love, and then a romantic career – Herzog unfortunately fails. Kidman becomes a cardboard cut-out, and James Franco in the role of her lover, who is usually an interesting actor, this time comes across as pretentious. It’s best to watch the film as a final, half-ironic flirtation with cinematic conventions and social stereotypes from the post-colonial era.