A dystopian irony, set in the 1970 s, High-Rise is the new film from British director Ben Wheatley( Kill List, Sightseers ).
What was it about Ballard’s book that you thought would resonate with filmgoers and work as a big-screen cinema ?
Ben Wheatley : It’s a volume that was written in 1975 that can predict so much that is happening now and how pressing it is. Even if you flick through the morning newspaper there all sorts of enormous new developments being built in London that are seducing people away into them to escape from the grime of living and dealing with the poor. That kind of division between rich and poor is something that everyone has to deal with in London and it becomes like a museum city with no-one actually living here any more – so that side of it was interesting. Also the idea of people becoming subsumed by technology and how, as the building starts to break down, they movie each other and project it on the walls. I was like, oh God, this is the beginning of that reflex that becomes like YouTube. So even though it’s a volume from the Seventies, it feels unbelievably relevant to today’s culture ? Wheatley : That’s the trick of picking a volume that’s predictive fiction, because it’s not actually in that moment. He’s looking ahead all the time. But, it’s kind of depressing that he gets so much of it right. His later volumes are more worrying as they are much more apocalyptic and if he’s getting this stuff right then we’re in real trouble.
Is this a film for scholars of Ballard or a movie for the masses ? Wheatley : On one level we are trying to make a big movie that was very sexy, kind of seductive, and filled with wonderful film stars. But then on the other side, we wanted it to be actually saying something about what was happening in the UK and in the world today. So I think you get onto both styles. It feeds the mind and the eyes. Is celebrity culture its own high-rise ? Sienna Miller : To a certain degree. The prophetic nature of what Ballard’s done – the self-promotion and the filming and the documenting of the demise of people – that’s truly become a part of our culture. People used to celebrate celebrity and plainly it’s completely different now. It’s an examination of humanity and the style people behave if they’re dedicated enough rein and I think that our culture is actually heading towards that – it’s alarming. What about as an actress within the Hollywood bubble – are there parallels to the high-rise there? Miller : I only try to avoid as much of that as is practicable. It’s definitely its own world and it’s definitely weird – “Hollyweird”. When you dip in and out there is hierarchy, there are people who are more successful than others. Everybody’s ambitious and it can get strange and competitive and odd but at the same time most of the people I’ve worked with have been normal, nice, creative people. Wheatley : Not so much dog-eating? Miller : No dog-eating and no orgies regrettably Did you leave the set impression as disturbed and disorientated as I did when I left the cinema? Miller : In moments. Wheatley: Yeah. Miller: You didn’t! Have you insured Ben’s films? Wheatley: And I never saw you out of your wig either, you were always in character Miller : Off set in moments it got actually dark. It was chaos and it was weird. Ben’s very good at creating a world that was really complete and odd and we were all there running around like lunatics within this environment and then all living together in a hotel. Wheatley : I didn’t have anything to do with this hotel living thing. They were like The Young Ones. Miller : We shared the odd scotch egg.
The cinema has received mixed reviews – the Telegraph gave it 4/5, and the Guardian 2/5. What do you think has been divisive about it? Wheatley : I don’t know – it’s savor, isn’t it. I’d rather it was five starring and one superstar than merely straight-down-the-middle two and a half or three superstar. Miller : Ballard is polarising as well. The subject matter is uncomfortable and weird and people aren’t used to watching cinemas that are like Seventies movies that actually leave you with something that isn’t “popcorn”. I think this film will stay with you eternally and it’s dark. You question yourself, you look at yourself, you can’t assistance but self-examine. Who am I in this environment? How would I behave? And some people don’t want to have that experience. But I think that’s what cinema should be. That’s the genius of Ben’s work. And to be in something the hell is polarising is absolutely everything I would rather be in. Wheatley : I can only hear you say genius there! High-Rise will open in UK cinemas on 18 March .
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