“Later, as he sat on his balcony eating the dog, Dr Robert Laing reflected on the unusual events that had taken place within this huge apartment building during the previous three months,” runs the famous first sentence of the novel from which High-Rise is adapted, and the same fraught relationship between containment and psychosis is established within the opening ten minutes of this film version, the combined frenzy and precision of its exposition calculated to reveal Ballard’s focus on what Technology has done to make possible the expression of a truly “free” psychopathology. To name Robert Laing after R D Laing (1927-1989) – who argued (to paraphrase crudely) that psychosis was only effectively graspable within the social context of its manifestation – clearly points to inferences central to both novel and subsequent film.

Screenwriter Amy Jump combined with husband and director Ben Wheatley to hallucinatory effect on A Field in England (2013), on that occasion using the setting of the English Civil War and a dose of psilocybin mushrooms to reveal the hidden violence of societal mores, but here the effect is both intensified and expanded: the parameters of the drama are speedily plotted, the socio-political Satire both playful and accurate and, perhaps most cunningly of all, the psychedelic device of the “bright but bloody Kaleidoscope” mentioned by Ballard at the beginning of his memoir Miracles of Life (2008) placed diegetically into the hands of the boy “Toby” (Suc), not only as the means by which to relay the shattered montage sequences of the film’s second half, but also to highlight the memetic effect of Ballard’s output on popular discourse and to reveal the buried thematic properties and formulations of the New Wave of sf in Ballard’s oeuvre, something about which Ballard himself was frequently circumspect.

– See more (with SPOILERS) at:


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