Set in a 1970s Arcology, a self-contained building where the residents can have all their needs met within, we find a new tenant who doesn’t quite fit in. He’s a doctor who seems to be concerned about finding the perfect color for his walls and the perfect partner for his bed. Since this the 1970s, everyone is part of the swinging set.
At first, all seems well enough. The people on the lower floors aren’t quite as posh as the people on the higher floors, but they all still get along. It’s kind of like being on the Titanic, with the rich folks in First Class and the common folks down in Steerage. Why this would be the case in an apartment block is never explained. In fact, very little is explained and the whole story very quickly falls into madness and nonsense.
In a matter of days or weeks or hours, who can tell? the whole place devolves into Roman Orgies and mountains of trash and burning cars. Amid the chaos, people still talk about having parties and who was invited by whom. The building soon makes the Lord of the Flies look like a nice weekend out in the country. There is rape and murder and people eating dogs and dog food. Again, none of it makes any sense. The world outside the building, a block or two away, seems to remain perfectly normal. And yet everyone stays in the building, forming tribes and burning open fires when the power goes out.
Amazingly, Tom Hiddleston and Jeremy Irons have starring roles in this bizarre bit of business. The film is based on J.G. Ballard’s book of the same name. I never read it, but watching High Rise I did get the feel of reading an old sci fi novel of the period. When I first heard about this film I thought it was based on The World Inside by Robert Silverberg, another 1970s novel set in an Arcology and filled with tales of the class system in an apartment building.
I’d never heard of the novel and I’ve never read any of Ballard’s books. High Rise was a weird and occasionally funny movie. It was kind of like watching Monty Python, sometimes amusing, but often times just baffling.