High Life: A Space Odyssey with Juliette Binoche and Robert Pattinson

For her first English-language movie, in U.S. theaters on Friday, French director Claire Denis has made a successful foray into the science-fiction genre. The result is a space odyssey carried by Juliette Binoche and Robert Pattinson.

We last heard from Claire Denis with Let the Sunshine In, a romantic comedy that arrived in U.S. cinemas last spring. This year, we find her with a sci-fi film that harks back to the hypnotic 2001: A Space Odyssey by Stanley Kubrick and Solaris from Andrei Tarkovsky.

High Life tells the story of a group of criminals sentenced to death who agree to commute their sentences by becoming guinea pigs on a space mission outside the solar system. The objective is to fly close to a black hole and study its energy sources as those on Earth have almost run out. The crew is also forced to take part in procreation tests carried out by the unnerving Doctor Dibs (Juliette Binoche). Taking part in the experiments demanded by her hierarchy, she is tasked with administering the crew with a number of substances, while also taking sperm samples from the men, including Monte (Robert Pattinson), a tortured thirty-something shown at the start of the movie alongside a little girl.

Back together for a second time after David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis, Robert Pattinson and Juliette Binoche are remarkable. “I was not inspired by recent sci-fi films. I find them a little too civilized, with Ken and Barbie dolls floating through zero gravity in streamlined spaceships like kids’ toys,” says the director. While Claire Denis has drawn on the sci-fi genre, it is less for its propensity for the spectacular and more for its capacity to explore the infinite space of the human soul.

U.S. release: April 5, 2019

Running time: 110 min
Director: Claire Denis
With: Juliette Binoche, Robert Pattinson, André Benjamin, Lars Eidinger, Mia Goth
U.S. distributor: A24

Article published in the April 2019 issue of France-Amérique