Movie Released: April 28, 2016 in USA
High Rise is a horrific novel about a building that begins to have a strange hold over its residents. The high rise is a virtual vertical city, with the higher levels representing higher social class status. The building has it’s own school, restaurants, pools, grocery store. The only reason for its’ residents to leave is to go to work. The residents begin to throw louder and wilder parties and begin leaving the building less and less often to go to work. Often if they do go, they rest at work for a few hours and then return to the high rise, or they may get to their car and then turn right around and go back to the high rise. The parties turn to violence, vandalism, voyeurism, raiding, raping, murder and cannibalism with the ultimate goal being survival of the fittest. The characters become either checked out or fully engrossed in the “game” they are playing. Although there is some hope they will get caught, no one ever bothers to call the police or seek outside help. The men and women revert to hunter/gatherer roles. The women seem banded together by the end and it appears the women have come out on top, however, no one really is a winner in this book. Reading this novel from 1975 did not feel much like I had jumped back in time with the exception of the polaroid cameras and lack of cell phones/social media. This novel was many things at once: a horror story, a dystopian science fiction story, and most impressively a chilling social commentary. It is a commentary on the psychological effects of modernization and technological advancement. This advancement leads to an increasingly fragmented and socially insular society that yearns for more connectedness even if that connectedness is horrific. The writing was excellent and I look forward to watching the movie.
Interestingly, J. G. Ballard (15 November 1930 – 19 April 2009) grew up in in Shanghai, which came under Japanese control in 1943. He spent 2 years in an internment camp with his family. Presumably this early exposure to the atrocities of war shaped his writing and the horror it contains. In 1945, he returned to Britain with his mother and sister. He began medical school in 1951 with the intention of becoming a psychiatrist, however, abandoned his medical studies 2 years later, to pursue a career in writing. Since then, he led an incredibly interesting life with various twists and turns. His wife and mother of his 3 children died young of pneumonia and he was left to raise 3 children. He has had movies and television series made of his stories and novels. He has influenced the genre of dystopian science fiction literature, art and music. With the publication of The Atrocity Exhibition, there was an obscenity trial and in the United States, the publisher destroyed nearly all of the print. He had become an icon with this work.
- Who ends up on top, the women or the men?
- How is this book a literal struggle to the top?
- How are the characters psychologically affected? Why do they become that way?
- How do you think J. G. Ballard’s background affected his writing?
- Laing isn’t sure if what is happening is all in his head. Could the building be a Freudian representation of himself?
- Debate which the better, the movie or the book?
I watched the movie shortly after finishing the book. I thought it had a similar dreamlike surreal quality to it. The events occurring in the book are horrific and repulsive yet somehow, in both reading the book and watching the movie, I felt ok with it. I was interested, intrigued, waiting for what was next, almost complicit in the act of chaos and abandon that the characters/actors demonstrate.
The movie rendition is mostly true to the book. I did think that children figured more prominently in the movie than they had in the book. It’s a movie that’s interesting to watch after reading the book and understanding the author, his background and the year in which it was written. Given the graphic content contained within the movie, it is not a movie for everyone. If you can stomach, I highly recommend watching it if you’ve read the book!