J. G. Ballard lived a tragic life, starting with an internment in a Japanese POW camp when he was a child. The film Empire of the Sun (starring the 12yr old Christian Bale) is based on his book which fictionalized some of his childhood experiences.
Ballard’s writing is brilliant at depicting human nature as a bestiary. There’s even a word for it, Ballardian,
of James Graham Ballard (1930–2009), the British novelist, or his works
resembling or suggestive of the conditions described in Ballard’s novels and stories, esp dystopian modernity, bleak man-made landscapes, and the psychological effects of technological, social or environmental developments
I was first introduced to Ballard’s work years ago when I audited a class on the avant-garde at Princeton University taught by Craig Dworkin, a brilliant lecturer who is now teaching in Utah (it sure was Princeton’s loss), so I knew what to expect from High-Rise, the film.
Back in the olden days High-Rise would have been rated X.
It is faithful to the novel, the actors are very good, it’s visually striking . . . and yet . . .
Ballard wrote the novel High-Rise in 1975, and the film takes place in that year (or so it seems, if you go by the electronics and the cars). Tom Hiddleston plays Laing, the central character, and his decay matches that of his surroundings. High-Rise depicts the violent class war between the unwashed in the lower floors who hang Che posters on their walls and the upper crust on the upper floors who fancy ABBA music played by Baroque ensembles, all of them alienated from the rest of the world.
Like in Saramago’s Blindness, the hoi polloi have no resources in the absence of a benevolent government, so be prepared for a lot of violence, sex, gore, and garbage when they take over.
I do mean garbage, as in, piles of Hefty bags, mold, and rotting corpses.
The film ends with a child sitting outside the building listening to Margaret Thatcher, who became prime minister of the UK in 1979, give a speech on capitalism. The ending is meant to match the end of the decade.
FORTY YEARS LATER,
Yet, forty years later, the places that turned out like the High-Rise exist where socialism has taken hold. The Ryugyong Hotel in North Korea stands empty, but Caracas has its own High-Rise slum, the Tower of David,
Hugo Chávez was its slumlord.
[For fans who want to see Tom Hiddleston and Jeremy Irons working together but would rather be spared the rot, I recommend The Hollow Crown instead.]
Linked to by Blazing Cat Fur. Thank you!