I absolutely cannot contain my excitement that J. G. Ballard’s novel High Rise is being adapted for the silver screen – starring Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irons and Elizabeth Moss.
High Rise is undoubtedly my favourite Ballard novel. Set in a luxury 40-storey tower block, it parallels the failures of the building with the rapid deterioration of society within. Factions form between the floors and the tenants become increasingly feral, descending into unrestrained pillaging, raping and eventually cannibalism.
High Rise, first published in 1975, exploited topical issues regarding tower blocks that were, at the time, still quite a new type of building in London (the famous Barbican towers (below), undoubtedly an influence, were built between 1973-76). On the one hand, architects were trying to provide every residential and community facility in one estate, including schools, gyms, restaurants and living quarters; on the other hand, critics were arguing that people should not be living vertically, communities cannot be sustained in such a way and lack of gardens and green spaces were detrimental to the health. All these issues are addressed in the book – to the extreme.
I am sceptical whether the upcoming film, also set in 1975, will be able to evoke the same sense of modernity, innovation and contemporary criticism in Ballard’s novel. It would be a shame if the social commentary is lost on the big screen.
You can hear Tom Hiddleston read a section of the first chapter via the Guardian, which offers an exciting introduction to the rest of this absurd, dystopian and thoroughly architectural story.
Can’t wait for the release of this film!