Life in The High-Rise, Do You Fancy It?


Last Saturday I went to the cinema and to watch High-Rise. I was very curious about this film, a) Tom Hiddleston is in it, b) it’s based on a novel by the British writer James Ballard and what I heard of him sounds fascinating.

I have never read anything by Ballard – I plan to grab The Drowned World some time soon – but I enjoyed the film a lot. It has that explosive mix of strange plot, music and visuals that it’s so hard to find in more mainstream movies. The soundtrack is very good – I loved this orchestra version of SOS by ABBA, and the cover that Portishead has done – and the story, even if unsettling, grabbed my attention since second one.

For those who don’t know, High-Rise is the story of an enormous residential building where people have everything they could ask for: swimming pool, gym, supermarket and even a school. This great achievement of modern life is also organised by social levels where the humble people occupy the lower floors and the rich ones the top. However, the apparent perfect status turns into chaos when there is a small power cut…

I was talking the other day with a PhD mate who is doing his thesis on Ballard and he told me that this writer was very influenced by psychology, specially by Freud, and that in this novel characters are supposed to be incarnations of the super-ego, the subconscious and so on. That’s a very interesting theory – and we were talking long about that – but, between us, that’s not what I was thinking about when I was watching the film.

In High-Rise everyone seems to have the perfect life: all of them have jobs in the city, all of them have cars, all of them have been able to afford a flat in the luxurious building and all of them have families and, sometimes, children.

Is not that what we all aim for?

I don’t know about you, but I always grew up thinking, ‘what do I want to do when I’m an adult?’ And that mean what sort of profitable job I was interested into. I went through school and high-school without questioning – not for a moment – that I’d be going to university too. I’m the second generation of university educated people in my family. My parents went and of course I was expect to do the same.

University was challenging in a way but boring too. As an extension of high-school I had to study theories but original thinking was not something we were asked to do. Now I find myself in the academia once again, although this PhD is the best thing I could be wishing for because it’s purely creative.

What should I do afterwards?

I hate working in an office and I hate the nine to five timetable. I’m not lazy, it’s just that I feel that it sucks my life (and creativity) out and I firmly believe there must be another way out. I don’t want to buy a car, I don’t want to buy an apartment, I don’t want to set a perfect family. Is that everything? I’m not surprised people at the High-Rise decided to throw Bachanals all day in the corridors because they were too sick of their perfect lifes. You can become a prisoner of your desires.

I used to believe – when I was 18 and thinking, hey, I’m an adult – that I would just get myself a job I liked and then I would write on the side. I know that works perfectly for some – it worked with the lovely J A White, author of The Thickety – but it doesn’t work for me. I need to be creating all the time. That’s what keeps me sane inside instead of drowning into depression, anguish and panic attacks. It may take me years to figure this out, but I can reinvent myself. I want to be like a modern minstrel going here and there exchanging stories for goods. Everyone likes to hear a good story.

Life in the High-Rise is not for me. I’d rather be a nomad.


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