High Life (2018 film)

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High Life
Man with short cropped hair and in an astronaut suit with sun behind his profile.
Theatrical release poster
Directed byClaire Denis
Produced by
  • Andrew Lauren
  • D.J. Gugenheim
  • Laurence Clerc
  • Oliver Dungey
  • Christoph Friedel
  • Claudia Steffen
  • Olivier Théry-Lapiney
Written by
Music byStuart A. Staples
CinematographyYorick Le Saux
Edited byGuy Lecorne
Distributed by
Release date
  • 9 September 2018 (2018-09-09) (TIFF)
Running time
110 minutes[1]
  • United States
  • United Kingdom
  • France
  • Germany
  • Poland
Budget€8 million[2]

High Life is a 2018 English-language science fiction film written and directed by French director Claire Denis with Robert Pattinson and Juliette Binoche in the lead roles. It is Denis's first film in the English language and was co-written by her long-time collaborator Jean-Pol Fargeau and Geoff Cox.

The film focuses on a group of criminals who are tricked into believing they will be freed if they participate in a mission to travel on a spaceship towards a black hole to find an alternate energy source while being sexually experimented on by the scientists on board.[3] French physicist and black hole expert Aurélien Barrau has been part of the project as a scientific expert. Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson has designed the spacecraft for the film and it is his first cinematic experience.[2]

High Life had its world premiere at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival on 9 September 2018.[4][5]


A group of criminals are sent on an alternative energy finding mission in space. Monte, one of the criminals on board previously had a daughter, Willow, against his will through artificial insemination, but comes to love her as they near the end of their journey.



Claire Denis had the idea of the project in her mind for fifteen years.[6] Talking about it she said that, "I had a screenplay which was naturally in English, because the story takes place in space and, I don't know why, but for me, people speak English – or Russian or Chinese – but definitely not French in space."[7]

Initially novelist Nick Laird co-wrote the screenplay for the film along with Denis, Fargeau and Cox. Additionally, Laird's wife Zadie Smith contributed to early drafts of the English version of the screenplay.[8] But due to creative differences between Denis and Smith, Laird and Smith dropped out of the project as screenwriters, but Laird later served as the consultant for the script.[9]

Claire Denis went to the European Space Agency's Astronaut Centre in Cologne to learn about human spaceflight exploration before the film started shooting.[10]


Denis thought of Vincent Gallo for the lead role during early stages of the project.[6] She wrote the film keeping Philip Seymour Hoffman in mind and was saddened by his untimely death. Later the project caught the attention of Robert Pattinson and according to Denis, "One day Robert Pattinson contacted the person who was doing the English casting. I was intrigued but I thought he was too young. Every time I went to London to meet some actors, he was there. His desire to work with me has never faltered. And now he is a little less young and it's perfect." Further talking about his casting, she added, "When I saw Twilight, I liked it immediately because he has heartrending charisma. It's strange, though, because it would be difficult to imagine anyone more unlike Philip Seymour Hoffman physically, but Robert is very enigmatic, with a powerful presence. He gives off an aura that immediately makes you want to film him."[7] Pattinson, talking about the film, described his character as an astronaut and said, "...he's a criminal who volunteers for a mission toward a black hole, but he realizes along the way that a doctor on board also wants to do sexual experimentation with humans in space."[11]

In late 2015, Patricia Arquette and Mia Goth joined the cast of the film.[12] In September 2017, Arquette dropped out of the project while the rest of the cast, including Juliette Binoche and rapper Andre 3000, were also announced.[13]


Principal photography for the film began in Cologne, Germany on 18 August 2017.[11][14][15][13] The Polish part of the shooting took place in Białystok.[16] Filming wrap up in late October 2017.[17]


Claire Denis (right) presenting High Life at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival.

Following its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, the film competed in main competition at the San Sebastián International Film Festival in late September 2018.[18] The film had its theatrical release in France on 7 November 2018.[19] A24 acquired U.S. distribution rights to the film[20] and have scheduled the release in the United States for 12 April 2019.[21]


On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 85% based on 41 reviews, and an average rating of 7.6/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "High Life is as visually arresting as it is challenging, confounding, and ultimately rewarding - which is to say it's everything film fans expect from director Claire Denis."[22] At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating to reviews, the film has a weighted average score of 81 out of 100, based on 14 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[23]

David Ehrlich of IndieWire gave the film a grade of A−, describing it as "a pensive and profound study of human life on the brink of the apocalypse."[24] Jessica Kiang of Variety called it "extraordinary, difficult, hypnotic, and repulsive".[25] Charles Bramesco of The Guardian gave the film 5 stars out of 5, saying, "Denis has turned her sights on sci-fi, reconfiguring its familiar components to create a startlingly fresh engagement with the question of what it means to be human."[26] Steve MacFarlane of Slant Magazine wrote: "The film asks down-and-dirty questions about what really resides beneath thousands of years of human progress, a savage and haunting antidote to the high-minded idealism of movies like Christopher Nolan's Interstellar and Ridley Scott's The Martian."[27]


  1. ^ "High Life". Toronto International Film Festival. Retrieved 27 July 2018.
  2. ^ a b Goodfellow, Melanie (8 February 2016). "Wild Bunch to launch porn star Rocco Siffredi doc at EFM". ScreenDaily. Archived from the original on 10 February 2016. Retrieved 4 July 2017.
  3. ^ Jagernauth, Kevin (8 February 2016). "New Plot Details Emerge For Claire Denis' Sci-Fi 'High Life' With Robert Pattinson". IndieWire. Archived from the original on 30 July 2016. Retrieved 4 July 2017.
  4. ^ Vlessing, Etan. "Toronto: Timothee Chalamet Starrer 'Beautiful Boy,' Dan Fogelman's 'Life Itself' Among Festival Lineup". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on 2 August 2018. Retrieved 24 July 2018.
  5. ^ McNary, Dave (12 September 2018). "'High Life,' Starring Robert Pattinson and Juliette Binoche, Nabbed by A24". Variety. Retrieved 15 January 2019.
  6. ^ a b "Claire Denis Talks High Life & Robert Pattinson "his unflinching desire and our mutual recognition have done their work"". Robertpattinsonau.com. 14 May 2017. Archived from the original on 27 June 2017. Retrieved 4 July 2017.
  7. ^ a b Jagernauth, Kevin (25 May 2016). "Claire Denis on How Philip Seymour Hoffman Inspired 'High Life' And The "Heartrending Charisma" of Robert Pattinson". IndieWire. Archived from the original on 30 June 2016. Retrieved 4 July 2017.
  8. ^ Newman, Nick (8 February 2016). "Claire Denis' Robert Pattinson-Led 'High Life' Will Feature Unwanted Insemination and Black Holes". Filmstage.com. Archived from the original on 9 February 2016. Retrieved 4 July 2017.
  9. ^ Bramesco, Charles (13 September 2018). "Claire Denis on High Life, Robert Pattinson, and Putting Juliette Binoche in a "F*ckbox"". Vulture. Archived from the original on 13 September 2018. Retrieved 26 September 2018.
  10. ^ Epstein, Sonia (14 November 2018). "Claire Denis' Science Consultant Talks About High Life". Sloan Science & Film.
  11. ^ a b Raup, Jordan (21 June 2017). "Claire Denis Will Begin Production on Her Sci-Fi Drama 'High Life' Next Month". Filmstage.com. Archived from the original on 9 July 2017. Retrieved 4 July 2017.
  12. ^ Jagernauth, Kevin (26 October 2015). "Patricia Arquette and Mia Goth Join Robert Pattinson in Claire Denis' Sci-Fi 'High Life,' Plot Details Revealed". IndieWire. Archived from the original on 9 July 2017. Retrieved 4 July 2017.
  13. ^ a b Lang, Brent (8 September 2015). "Toronto: Juliette Binoche, André Benjamin Join Claire Denis' 'High Life' (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Archived from the original on 2 October 2017. Retrieved 8 September 2017.
  14. ^ Foreman, Katya (3 July 2017). "Front Row at Christian Dior Couture Fall 2017". Women's Wear Daily. Archived from the original on 3 July 2017. Retrieved 4 July 2017.
  15. ^ Jagernauth, Kevin (18 August 2017). "'Bright Sunshine In' Trailer: Juliette Binoche Stars In Claire Denis' New Film". Playlist.net. Archived from the original on 18 August 2017. Retrieved 18 August 2017.
  16. ^ ""High Life" Filming Completed". Film Commission Poland. 21 November 2017. Retrieved 15 January 2019.
  17. ^ Goodfellow, Melanie (25 October 2017). "Wild Bunch brings new Natalie Portman and Ari Folman animation projects to AFM (exclusive)". Screen International. Archived from the original on 25 October 2017. Retrieved 26 October 2017.
  18. ^ Hopewell, John. "San Sebastian: Claire Denis, Kim Jee-woon, Naomi Kawase Make Competition". Variety. Archived from the original on 13 July 2018. Retrieved 24 August 2018.
  19. ^ "High Life French release date". Twitter. Archived from the original on 24 August 2018. Retrieved 24 August 2018.
  20. ^ Fleming Jr, Mike (12 September 2018). "A24 Lands Claire Denis' English Language Debut 'High Life' With Robert Pattinson & Juliette Binoche: Toronto". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 12 September 2018.
  21. ^ "High Life A24 Official Page". A24. Retrieved 10 January 2019.
  22. ^ "High Life". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 15 January 2019.
  23. ^ "High Life". Metacritic. Retrieved 10 October 2018.
  24. ^ Ehrlich, David (10 September 2018). "'High Life' Review: Claire Denis Takes Robert Pattinson on an Erotic Space Odyssey in This Mesmerizing Look into the Void — TIFF". IndieWire. Retrieved 10 October 2018.
  25. ^ Kiang, Jessica (10 September 2018). "Film Review: Robert Pattinson in 'High Life'". Variety. Retrieved 10 October 2018.
  26. ^ Bramesco, Charles (10 September 2018). "High Life review – orgasmic brilliance in deepest space with Robert Pattinson". The Guardian. Retrieved 10 October 2018.
  27. ^ MacFarlane, Steve (10 September 2018). "High Life". Slant Magazine. Retrieved 10 October 2018.

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