High Life

France, Germany, USA, Poland, UK 2019

Synopsis

Deep space. Beyond our solar system. Monte and his infant daughter Willow live together aboard a spacecraft, in complete isolation. A solitary man, whose strict self-discipline is a protection against desire – his own and that of others - Monte fathered the girl against his will. His sperm was used to inseminate Boyse, the young woman who gave birth to her. They were members of a crew of prisoners: space convicts, death row inmates. Guinea pigs sent on a mission to the black hole closest to Earth. Now, only Monte and Willow remain. And Monte is changed. Through his daughter, for the first time, he experiences the birth of an all-powerful love. Willow grows, becoming a young girl, then a young woman. Together, alone, father and daughter approach their destination – the black hole in which all time and space ceases to exist.

Directors Statement

desire and solitude
Above all, and I must insist, HIGH LIFE is not a science fiction film even if there are healthy doses of fiction - and science thanks to the precious participation of the astrophysicist Aurélien Barrau, specialist in astroparticle physics and black holes. The film takes place in space but it’s very grounded.

men and women without a past
We made a point of not “over-fictionalising” the characters: they have all probably committed terrible crimes, but we don’t pursue it. Their history, collective or individual, takes place in the present and – who knows? – in the future, even if for most of them the future will take the form of a cemetery under the stars. I see them all as a contemporary community, utopians, hippies of a special sort, who have gone from juvenile detention centres to prisons and who do not want to live in any society other than their own.

set design
My instructions were very simple. It is a prison, a sort of squat house, drab, dirty, poorly lit. There is a main corridor and cells on both sides. On the floor below are a medical lab, a morgue and a greenhouse garden. I was dead set on having that garden. How can you keep up the hope of return if earth isn’t part of the voyage? That earth is their Earth, the only thing that reminds them that they are earthlings, men and women of the earth. In fact I wanted to avoid the hell of special effects. The same goes for weightlessness. There is no need for weightlessness because the spaceship is accelerating close to the speed of light. Terrestrial gravity – gravity in every sense of the word – re-establishes itself, because gravity is the effect of acceleration. If I had to film actors hanging from cables against a green screen, I’d never have made the movie. And with it’s near absence of special effects. I hope the film will still have a special effect on viewers.

Director's Biography

Claire Denis is a French director and screenwriter, renowned for films including CHOCOLAT, BEAU TRAVAIL, TROUBLE EVERY DAY, 35 SHOTS OF RUM, and BASTARDS. Born in Paris, Claire Denis lived in a number of African countries until the age of 12. Having returned to France, she studied at the IDEHEC (Institut des Hautes Etudes Cinématographiques), where she met cinematographer Agnès Godard, who would later work on the majority of her films. She began her professional life in cinema as assistant to major directors like Robert Enrico, Wim Wenders, Costa Gavras and Jacques Rivette. She later worked with Jim Jarmusch on his film DOWN BY LAW.
In 1987, Claire Denis wrote and directed her first film, CHOCOLAT. A semi-autobiographical story of racial tension in the colonial Africa of the 1950s at the moment of independence, the film premiered In Competition at the 1988 Cannes Film Festival, was nominated at the César Awards and met with widespread critical acclaim in the US.

Filmography:
2018 - HIGH LIFE
2017 - BRIGHT SUNSHINE IN
2013 - BASTARDS
2010 - WHITE MATERIAL
2008 - 35 SHOTS OF RUM
2005 - THE INTRUDER
2002 - FRIDAY NIGHT
2001 - TROUBLE EVERY DAY
1999 - BEAU TRAVAIL
1996 - NÉNETTE AND BONI
1995 - A PROPOS DE NICE
1994 - U.S. GO HOME
1993 - I CAN’T SLEEP
1990 - NO FEAR, NO DIE
1989 - MAN NO RUN
1988 - CHOCOLAT
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Cast & Crew

Directed by: Claire Denis

Written by: Claire Denis, Jean-Pol Fargeau, Geoff Cox

Produced by: Klaudia Smieja, D.J. Gugenheim, Claudia Steffen, Christoph Friedel, Laurence Clerc, Olivier Thery Lapiney, Oliver Dungey

Cinematography: Yorick le Saux

Editing: Guy Lecorne

Production Design: Francois-Renaud Labarthe

Costume Design: Judy Shrewsbury

Hair & Make-up: Marcin Rodak

Original Score: Stuart Staples

Sound: Stuart Staples

Main Cast: Robert Pattinson (Monte), Juliette Binoche (Dibs), André Benjamin (Tcherny), Mia Goth (Boyse), Lars Eidinger (Chandra), Claire Tran (Mink)

Nominations and Awards

  • EFA Feature Film Selection 2019