The first image of Claire Denis’s new film, High Life, is an arresting one: a baby, seemingly abandoned on a spaceship. Eventually, her cries are soothed over a loudspeaker by the only other living being on board, a wiry convict named Monte (Robert Pattinson). Together, Monte and the baby make for an unusual pair, and their dynamic throughout the movie is loaded with a sense of danger that gives way to a touching, if strange, emotional intimacy.
Tension mixed with pathos—there might be no better way to describe the films of Denis, and her relationship with Pattinson, one of the biggest stars the legendary French director has ever worked with.
High Life feels like a remarkable step forward for both of them. Denis is a brilliant but unsparing artist whose greatest works (including Beau Travail, 35 Shots of Rum, and White Material) have wrestled with colonialism, fraught romances, and male cruelty. High Life is a significant departure for her in terms of its scope: It’s the first project she’s filmed on soundstages, rather than in real locations. It’s also her first sci-fi film and her first that’s entirely in English. Meanwhile, Pattinson has moved on from his time as a tabloid-dominating teen idol best known for the Twilight franchise. He has since sought out roles in art films and collaborated with exciting directors such as James Gray (The Lost City of Z), the Safdie brothers (Good Time), and David Cronenberg (Cosmopolis and Maps to the Stars). Some of Pattinson’s upcoming projects include films with Robert Eggers, Ciro Guerra, and Christopher Nolan.