gtag('config', 'UA-121213066-1'); Film Festival Cologne 2018: High Life | Martha's Film Corner

Film Festival Cologne 2018: High Life

By Martha Sigargök-Martin | Features & Reviews

Nov 05

Genre: Scifi, Horror, Drama | Country: France | 2018 | 110 min

Directed by Claire Denis

Starring: Robert Pattinson, Juliette Binoche, André Benjamin

The film festival Cologne in October presented lots of international films. One of them was High Life by Claire Denis, a strange and violent odyssey in deep space.

Claire Denis (Beau Travail, 35 Rum), is known for her enigmatic and provoking films. If you've ever watch Trouble Every Day, you'll know what I mean. But the director has also a high sense of aesthetic. She's a master in depicting strange situation and tormented relationships. If you've never watched a film by her, it's time. However, be prepared to be pushed to your boundaries.


In a shortened version, High Life depicts the life of a father and his child on a spaceship with no crew.

We don’t know what they’re doing here at first and where they’re heading. The reason why and what has happened before is explained in flashbacks, first rather in an enigmatic way and then a more explicit one.

Cinematography & Editing

Claire Denis has shown her instinct for dramaturgy before. She was trained at La Femis, a renowned French film school. High Life is not disappointing in that matter. Not only from a dramaturgical point of view, but also because the cinematography participates in telling the story.

Her cinematographers Yorick Le Saux (Only Lovers Left Alive, Personal Shopper) and Tomasz Naumiuk (Nina, Amok) know how to make the audience feel. The proximity to the bodies and their loneliness in space is oppressing and hostile.

So, is the editing made by Guy Lecorne (also an actor) which reveals scene by scene the horror of what happened.


Robert Pattinson is the leading actor of this space “adventure”. He’s a single parent, tormented by solitude and the necessity of staying sane. In that, the British actor performed well. He was convincing as a father showing his child his affection, as well as an astronaut at the edge of a breakdown, getting rid of the dead bodies of his companions, one by one.

Juliette Binoche plays a dark and complex character. She’s a supporting pillar – in fact almost a mother – to the crew, but also a terrible criminal and a cold-blooded scientist.


The audience who knows what Claire Denis is capable of, will not be extremely surprised by High Life. It explores the same obsessiveness of bizarre relationships, bodies, and perversion.

High Life is science fiction but not the kind which would be appreciated by “classical” science fictions fans. To begin with, because there wasn’t any intention of depicting something solid and logical, even in a fully new imagined world. It’s not a firework of special effects, complex plot or even hard science fiction told minimally.

But it doesn’t matter, because the film has its own value. If you’re open to rather disturbing scenes and can stand confined space for almost two hours, give High Life a shot. It’s not guaranteed you’ll like it, but you’ll remember it for sure.

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About the Author

Hello there! I'm Martha, a tenacious optimist, professional mistake maker and a pain in the ass for those who love status quo. I love inspiring films and series not only because they're pretty but also because they have the power to change perspective and sometimes to heal.