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High-Rise (2015) | Ben Wheatley’s brutal, bonkers blend of black humour, horror and anarchy is a winner


JG Ballard’s cult 1975 novel gets the big-screen treatment from Ben Wheatley (Kill List/Sightseers) and the result is a blackly comic vision of a dystopian Britain on the brink of social meltdown.


Neurologist Dr Robert Laing (Tom Hiddleston) has just got the keys to his new pad in a luxury 40ft-storey west London tower block. But while he just wants some peace and quiet, the building and its residents have other ideas. Conceived by its rooftop-dwelling architect Anthony Royal(Jeremy Irons) as a ‘crucible for change’, the building starts to have a startling effect on its tenants.

When the veneer of civilisation begins to collapse, class war breaks out between the upper and lower floors, and Laing finds himself struggling to keep his sanity and decorum in check as the other residents, including free-spirited secretary Charlotte (Sienna Miller), arrogant TV documentary film-maker Wilder (Luke Evans), and heavily pregnant Helen (Elizabeth Moss), are swept up in the orgy of violence…

Ben Wheatley and his screenwriter wife Amy Jump have done a swell job translating Ballard’s cult novel to the big screen, but the film’s ultimate success rests on the evocative retro 1970s production design, the impressive ensemble cast, and the atmospheric electronic score.


Having set the film in 1975, we get a Brutalist tower block much like London’s Barbican Estate (said to be one of Ballard’s inspirations) and one which echoes the bleak urban spaces used in futuristic 1970s thrillers like Rollerball and Soylent Green.

The period furnishings, fashions and grooming styles, and the inclusion of Portishead crooning to Abba’s SOS (which came out the same year), lend the grey surroundings some colourful respite, while Clint Mansell’s electronic score reverberates throughout the concrete corridors like sublimal aural wallpaper that’s a portent of the destructive things to come.

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Stark, stylishly and boldly bonkers brilliant, its a full-on assault of the senses that not only does justice to the Ballardian themes of the novel, it also evokes the cinema of Lindsay Anderson, particularly his 1982 state-of-the nation satire Britannia Hospital, and David Cronenberg, who also turned Ballard’s Crash into a controversial adaptation in 1996.

High-Rise is out on digital download from 11 July from StudioCanal, followed by its Blu-ray and DVD release on 18 July.

If…. (1968) | Lindsay Anderson’s surreal satire is still as subversive as ever – which side will you be on?

Lindsay Anderson's If.... (1968)

‘One man can change the world with a bullet in the right place’
At College House boarding school in Gloucestershire circa 1967, winter term reassembles. New boys like Jute (Sean Bury) are looked on as ‘scum’, and forced to ‘fag’ for the ‘whips’, upper sixth formers who have totalitarian control over the younger boys. Non-conformist lower sixth former Mick Travers (Malcolm McDowell) however, is a rebel with no respect for authority. Following a vicious caning, the young man’s resentment of the system explodes into total carnage as he and his companions-in-arms, Johnny (David Wood) and Wallace (Richard Warwick) take possession of a cache of guns…

Lindsay Anderson's If.... (1968)

‘What stands, if freedom fails?’
Lindsay Anderson‘s 1968 film If…. was the first in the director’s trilogy he made with writer David Sherwin satirising life in contemporary Britain, later continued in O Lucky Man! and Britiannia Hospital. Caustic, cautionary and incendiary, it made a star out of Malcolm McDowell and turned him into the poster boy for 1970s youthful rebellion (iconically cemented in A Clockwork Orange as sociopath droog Alex).

Lindsay Anderson's If.... (1968)

A powerful indictment of the public school system (and the country as a whole), If… is a like an updated Tom Brown’s School Days fused with a savagely surreal 1960s counterculture twist. Here, Lindsay uses all his cinematic skills to scrutinise and lay bare its barbaric rituals and class systems, while giving radical voice to Britain’s frustrated youth – and pre-empting the punk movement of the late 1970s in the process.

Lindsay Anderson's If.... (1968)

Winner of the 1969 Palme d’Or at Cannes, If…. is Anderson’s and Sherwin’s finest hour; a masterclass in story telling, character development and cinematic language; and one of the greatest British films ever made. As the quitessential tale of rebellion, it deserves to be discussed and dissected time and again, especially in light of the fact that atrocities committed by youths in schools are now a tragic present-day reality.

Oh, and did you know it’s also David Cameron’s favourite film – odd choice for a Conservative Prime Minister, don’t you think?

Lindsay Anderson's If.... (1968)

The UK Blu-ray release from Eureka! Entertainment, part of the Masters of Cinema Series, features a 1080p transfer, approved by cinematographer Miroslav Ondricek and assistant editor Ian Rakoff, in the film’s original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and monaural audio, and includes the following extras.
• Audio commentary with film critic and historian David Robinson and actor Malcolm McDowell.
• New video interviews with producer Michael Medwin, writers David Sherwin and John Howlett, editor David Gladwell, production manager Gavrik Losey, camera operator Brian Harris, and actors David Wood, Hugh Thomas, Geoffrey Chater, Philip Bagenal, and Sean Bury (who went on to appear in The Abominable Dr Phibes).
• Three short films by Anderson: Three Installations (1952), Thursday’s Children (co-directed with Guy Brenton, 1954), and Henry (1955), which prove a real insight into Anderson’s visual language.
• Two US trailers.
• Booklet containing new writing by David Cairns; a new interview with actor Brian Pettifer; a self-conducted interview with Lindsay Anderson; notes on the three short films; and rare and archival imagery.

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