‘High-Rise’ and the Effect of Enclosed Spaces on the Human Psyche

Environment is everything.
By  · Published on June 14th, 2017

Environment is everything.

Director Ben Wheatley is amassing one of the most distinctive and varied filmographies out there. You’ve got Kill List, a crime-centric horror film, Sightseers, a comedic thriller, A Field in England, a trippy-historical mindfuck, High-Rise, a dramatic and dystopic look at class warfare, and Free Fire, the epitome of a shoot-em-up.

But if there’s one theme that these disparate films have in common, it’s that they all, in their way, deal with social collapse within an enclosed space spawned from the effect of such a space on the human psyche. People driven to extremes by environment, basically, whether that environment is physical, social, or mental.

High-Rise in particular deals with the divisive and paranoid effects of restricted living, and the following succinct video essay from Oisin Griffin examines how Wheatley translated the film’s source material – a novel by J.G. Ballard – into his own take on the extrapolative effects of wealth segregation and population control. Griffin cites a pair of influences on Wheatley’s approach – Kameta Shindo’s Onibaba and Peter Watkins’ Culloden – and even provides a brief reading list should you want to supplement the ideas he conjures on your own.

Bottom line, Griffin packs a lot of context in less than three minutes, and his interpretation will have you hankering for a re-watch, which you can do on Netflix, where High-Rise is currently streaming.

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Novelist, Screenwriter, Video Essayist