Stories are certainly significant in Claire Denis‘ films, though their role is often to be a vehicle for her significant skills as a visual storyteller. (I can tell you what The Intruder‘s story is, but I couldn’t lay out the “plot” unless I’d just seen it. Even then…) And so while I’d normally hesitate to read a synopsis for any film as anticipated as her next, High Life, I figure this is a safe territory. Start playing the Tindersticks score and then we’ll talk about spoilers.
As it were, Wild Bunch’s Vincent Maraval told Screen Daily, somewhat counter to earlier reports, that the picture — which is set to star Robert Pattinson, Patricia Arquette, and Mia Goth — concerns “a group of convicts duped into joining a difficult space mission in the belief they will be freed if they are successful.” But this will not happen; what’s instead planned is for the inmates to “procreate and raise a child in space as part of a larger experiment.” And because High Life is a Claire Denis picture, the situation gets bleaker: a convict, Monte, and his daughter, Willow — conceived against his will, via artificial insemination, and who he nevertheless like no one in his life — are living “in complete isolation on the empty spacecraft as it heads towards its final destination, a black hole.”
Almost all previously announced collaborators — including regular cinematographer Agnès Godard; once again, Tindersticks on composing duties; and artist Olafur Eliasson designing the ship, which is reportedly “really important for the film” — are mentioned herein. Yet there’s the exception of author Zadie Smith, who was previously listed as a screenwriter; credited by Screen Daily are Denis, longtime co-writer Jean-Pol Fargeau, and Geoff Cox (Évolution). When speaking at SUNY Purchase this fall, Smith downplayed the extent of her involvement — indicating it was in fact for the purposes of polishing English dialogue — and one wonders if and how that affects things up to this point in time. No matter the situation on that front, High Life can’t come soon enough. Let’s count our lucky stars that production is expected to begin this summer.
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 cease to exist.
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