Rising High


Withnail & I, HandMade Films, 1987

From The Guardian:

The screenwriter and director Bruce Robinson, best known for The Killing Fields and Withnail & I, really went to town on the Freudian view of High-Rise in his little-known 1979 script, which he subtitled An Analogy. “I wrote it from the perspective of the building itself going insane,” he says, “with the superego in the penthouses, the middle floors as the ego and the id in the underground car park. The brain of the building goes nuts. Architecturally, the thing that interested me was the pre-stressing technique with cables. As you put on each new floor, the weight and the stress on the cables gets more and more until by the final floor these cables are so stressed that the whole building has a monstrous concrete migraine – it just wants to explode anyway.”

Reading Robinson’s script, it’s interesting to see how the writer and director of Withnail & I, with its brilliantly manic vernacular, has dealt with Ballard’s rather measured, abstract tone. “Ballard was such an innovative and interesting writer but his prose style wasn’t something I loved,” explains Robinson. “But High-Rise is an amazing piece of work, an extraordinary story.”

In both Withnail & I and High-Rise the characters must adapt to their harsh new surroundings. When the two main characters of Withnail go “on holiday by mistake”, they arrive at Uncle Monty’s cottage in the Lake District and have to improvise cooking a chicken without a roasting tray, propping it up astride a brick. There are moments of culinary ingenuity in Robinson’s High-Rise, too, when Laing (here renamed Lovall) cooks his bacon by ironing it, and the guests at one of the decadent penthouse parties tuck into seagull and gin.

“Why JG Ballard’s High-Rise takes dystopian science fiction to a new level”, Chris Hall, The Guardian