What's going on, you guys! Thank you for clicking! This will be a short review of the 2018 movie, "High Life." It is an A24 production (hell yeah,) directed by Claire Denis, and written by her and her collaborator Jean-Pol Fargeau. It stars Robert Pattinson, Juliette Binoche, Mia Goth, and Andre 3000. The film follows Monte (Pattinson) and his baby daughter, the only two surviving members of a mission on a deep space vehicle that is on a mission to document a black hole.
That is the gist of it, but the plot has several layers to it. About half of the film ends up being dedicated to showing flashbacks of the crew and the goings-on before Monte and his daughter were left alone. The crew is made up entirely of convicts. All on death row or spending life in prison for their crimes. They were given a chance to contribute to a science experiment, instead of die or rot forever in prison. They are all relatively young people. The oldest seems to be Dibs (Binoche), the scientist lady. I like to use official terms, you know? Well, first, let's focus on Monte. He is shown to be a very sweet and loving parent to his little daughter. He makes sure he does not miss out on taking care of this baby. He is in about as dire a situation as one can be, but he makes it his mission to protect this little girl. He is a really good parent, I think. Even though it is clear that he is becoming extremely tired and near the point of breaking under all the stress when the film opens. He was convicted on murder charges. It is shown slowly throughout the film in pieces of a flashback that he murdered a little girl when he was just a small child himself. He was walking his dog and hanging out with her and she seemingly (somehow) killed the dog. I presume she drowned it. He killed her in retaliation. Which, I am pretty sure I would have done the same.
Monte is... complicated, I think. He had that violent outburst as a child and ended up in the prison system for... Like, an amount of time. I think he is about 25 years old at this point when the movie starts. He has an air about him that he is the cool, understanding guy that you just need to have him open up a little. He just needs the right person to help him out. Wrong. He is completely closed off, doesn't have or want friends, isn't interested in any romantic or sexual relations (he doesn't even want to masturbate after a while on the ship. He makes the resolution to abstain as it makes him feel stronger,) and in general responds to most situations with violence. Yet he has texture and feelings. He has that all important empathy that allows him to function and be someone. He is still functioning only because I don't think he knows if he wants to die. The same goes for nearly everyone on the ship.
The most interesting is Dibs. She, at one point late in the film, is revealed to have smothered (or something awful) he husband and two children. Nice lady. She, well, doesn't seem to be quite balanced. Her mission on this ship is not the black hole research, but she is in fact serving as medical officer as well as weird science fiction scientist. She is attempting to make babies. I guess that she is trying to create test tube babies. The crew doesn't engage in sexual activity usually, although there is a clear thing going on between the Captain and her. Her and The Captain. Grammar. Anyway, she routinely collects sperm samples from the male members in exchange for drugs. She then uses them in attempt to inseminate the women onboard the ship. She has failed several times, there is reference to one, if not more, dead infants. I believe that one was murdered in retaliation by the mother. The women are in a position of... They are being forced into this. I would think they would be able to mutiny, but I presume that they have to do what is asked and told of them because they are wards of the state, you know. They are still in prison and I assume that Dibs has authority to discipline them if they do not follow suit.
So, what he have a group of women being forcibly impregnated along with men who are willingly giving their semen for these experiments in return for drugs. In fact, the whole crew is seemingly kept at bay in exchange for these drugs. The main character is, I guess I can say sexually repressed at this time. Repressed my be the wrong term, since it is his choice, but it is an important element, is what I mean. Dibs is actually disfigured due to the repercussions of an attempted suicide. She tried to kill herself after murdering her family and it somehow left her with a plastic vagina, basically. The movie doesn't go into specifics about it, but that's the gist. She can still feel down there and pleasure herself immensely in one very steamy scene in the movie. She is sexually repressed. I don't think she can love anyone after what she did to her family. I do think she craves that love and she craves the basics of sexual interaction. To feel close. I think her not being able to give birth is one of the reasons she obsessively tries to create life using samples from these men and using these women as surrogates.
Everything goes to hell at one point and there are less people on board the ship. When Dibs has the chance, she rapes Monte. He is asleep, all surviving members of the crew were drugged heavily at this point, so he couldn't even wake up for the act. She takes the sperm from inside her and force it into one of the sleeping women on the ship. She uses her finger, so I would say that it is rape again. This comes... Very shortly after a younger male member of the crew attempted to (I am not sure if he penetrated or not) rape this same woman. He was a very young and angry individual who showed signs of this kind of violence throughout the movie and took advantage of her being tied down after she was caught by Dibs when she was douching herself. So, after that attempted rape, which ended in that boy getting his ass beat to a pulp and then killed for his actions, this woman was impregnated without her consent or knowledge. This particular woman was very adamantly against the experiments and absolutely did not want a child, let alone from this woman's science project. Dibs is successful in this trial. The baby born, the baby that Monte is raising alone on this spaceship after everyone was murdered or committed suicide, was birthed from two rapes back-to-back. A child born from so much pain and, honestly, evil.
The film seems to be about sex. About reproduction. About how sex and love and pregnancy and child-bearing is seen, how is treated, how it comes about, and how it is used against people. Sex is weaponized in this case. Sex is an interesting subject, one that I cannot actually go into in the scholarly manner that I think this movie maybe inspires me to want to. Claire Denis made a film that is just stylized and raw enough to entertain me on the surface, while it takes on a very deep subject and I think scratches at saying something that not a lot of people want to talk about, admit, or maybe don't even realize. Weaponized sex.
WELL that about wraps it up for this one! Thank you for reading this! Be sure to watch or listen to the most recent episode of the podcast on YouTube or anywhere you listen to your podcasts! Drop a comment below what you think of the movie! What did you get out of it?