Books, Review

Book vs Movie: High-Rise

The plot:

When a class war erupts inside a luxurious apartment block, modern elevators become violent battlegrounds and cocktail parties degenerate into marauding attacks on “enemy” floors. In this visionary tale, human society slips into violent reverse as once-peaceful residents, driven by primal urges, re-create a world ruled by the laws of the jungle.

My thoughts:

I read the book last year when I heard that they were making it into a movie. I loved the story and devoured the book in one day. More than anything, I loved how the book made me feel. That panicked feeling in your gut, the clenching of your heart and the ‘Ow My God, what did I just read’ (in a good way) when you turn the last page.

I find that the best way to describe this book is a combination of Orwell’s 1984 and Golding’s Lord of the Flies. Humans driven to unspeakable things.

The movie.. well, let’s say that I’m very, very disappointed.

It was beautiful, a cinematic gem. The music was great, the same song played in different ways throughout the movie to match the atmosphere. It was very clever.
Even the actors were great.

Then where did it go wrong?

I think the movie focussed on the wrong elements. In the book, there is so much frustration and anger. It starts off with tiny details then grows and grows and grows like a crack in a mirror until the whole thing shatters, gone beyond repair.

You might say, this is a movie, they don’t have the time to do all that and you’d be right, if this movie wasn’t ridiculously long. People left the theater halfway through. And I’m sorry to say that even I, who knew the story and knew what I was getting myself into, had moments where I was wondering how much longer it would take to get to the point.

The movie made the inhabitants of the high-rise look crazy. From one day to the next, they just stop functioning and start acting like wild animals. There is almost no bickering, there are barely any arguments, no escalation, no breakdown. In a second, everything has gone to hell and that’s what disappointed me the most. You don’t understand these people in the movie. They all seem barking mad.

This movie has no clear build-up. If you didn’t read the book, chances are that you’d have no idea what was happening. A friend who came to see the movie with me asked: “why didn’t they just leave when things started to go wrong?” and that’s the thing that makes the whole movie unbelievable. Because you don’t have the clear build-up, the small frustrations that blossom into anger. Because you don’t see the raiding parties, the fear,..  You can’t fully understand what is happening. You also don’t see that there are several people who decide to leave the building, who try to escape. The ones who stay, do so deliberately. They want to be there, they want to fight.

Another thing that bothered me was the nudity and sex. I’m not saying there shouldn’t be any but I thought it was a bit over the top. Because there was so much of it, it lost its meaning and became ridiculous.

And then there’s the ending. I think the finale took five minutes? Even the very end, where they want to give you the idea that it is all going to happen again in the other buildings was rushed, I’m not sure anyone in the theater even noticed. In the book, because you’re already so invested in the story, you can’t help but go “Oh, s***!” when Laing looks at the people moving in to the other high-rises. You don’t see them here. You only get him, eating the dog, mentioning the impending chaos briefly.

Where the book made me feel part of the story, the movie didn’t make me feel anything at all. I felt bad for Laing at the fancy dress party and of course I felt bad and angry for Charlotte when Wilder came for her. But even at those moments, I only cared a little bit. Other than that? Nothing..

I’m sorry that this is such a negative review, I wish I could say more positive things. The actors were great, but their lines were rubbish. None of it was convincing.

I’ve been waiting for this movie for a year. It left me completely underwhelmed. I wanted so much more from it. You’d think I’d learn my lesson, watching all these book to movie adaptations and ending up frustrated every time.

This was almost as bad as One Day (book by David Mitchell, movie I’d rather forget about). Only the beautiful cinematography and music saved it from complete ruination. I’m sorry JG Ballard, honestly, I’m sorry they did that to your book.

Have you seen the movie?

What did you think? Let me know.



P.S. If you want to read the full review of the book, you can find it here. I will alway recommend it! Let’s just forget the movie exist, shall we?

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