Questioning our sexuality in the space of Kali Yuga or a reflection on High Life, 2018, dir. Claire Denis

Walking the fine line between brutal violence and softness, Denis takes us onto the emotional path through the black hole of humanity.

Questioning our sexuality in the space of Kali Yuga or a reflection on High Life, 2018, dir. Claire Denis

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“Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto.”
(I am human, and I think nothing human is alien to me.)
Terence, Roman playwright

The modern society would punish their atrocities by sentencing them for life or executing them, but the convicts were sent into space instead; the argument was that it was for science. In the world of High Life, the euphoria of recycling as a bogus consolation for the mass production and consumerism, has extended to the ‘surpluses’ of the human race. A genius idea for getting rid of (recycling?) some politicians and frenzied people of power, though they are unfortunately too far away from the ordinary man and the field of his infinite possibilities.

Being on a spaceship that silently floats, prisoners-cum-astronauts are longing for everything human. Mostly for closeness and intimacy. Constrained by chemicals and a destitute life, each of them is driven mad by their urges. The author gradually shows a man turning into a wild beast because he was forced to suppress his instincts. The lack of knowledge about his increased sexual needs burdened him, so he became aggressive like a rabid animal. By repeating the motive of bodily fluids she paints the picture of a fluid sex world and the sphere that blossoms from it whenever we scratch under the surface of drives.

The unique scenes of Dr. Dibs (Juliette Binoche) riding on a ‘sex mechanical bull’ as well as her sexualized monologue with the drowsy Monte (Robert Pattinson) point to the author’s vast knowledge about the richness of both female and male sexuality. The closeness between father and his artificially conceived daughter born in the space, which frames the film, gives warmth to this peculiar tale and shows the author´s maturity as a person, woman, director and artist.

I admire the way Denis described human needs, fragility, strength and sexuality, and the whole situation in which she placed her characters. The film perfectly follows a series of her brilliant motion pictures and it is clear that the person who designed and made the artwork of such a huge scope possesses a profound mental maturity and experience, as well as it showcases her prophetic side.

Throughout the film certainty serves as a leitmotif that means something quite different for the space inmates than in our earthly conditions. The necessity of security is inherent to every living creature, and the uncertainty of living on a space ship is just one of the triggers for the terrible reactions of its tenants. They live in a shoebox in the universe, and that paints the picture of our everyday boxes of ambivalence that we are shoved into quite often. It is quite natural that people will go crazy and become aggressive in such conditions sooner or later. The original score composed by Stuart A. Staples, which was awarded this year at the Ghent Film Festival, perfectly completes the line of ambiguity on a space journey from the depth to the surface.

Long frames shot with a static camera give us time to feel the depth of a story that does not end at the end of the movie, but continues to the present moment. In spite of disturbing images of violence, we have enough space to feel love and trust. Also, it is highlighted that only if we invest a lot of care, we can build these feelings successfully. The spaceship with a rectangular shape accurately describes the confined mental space in which the prisoners have to dwell in, while within the ship exists a somewhat surreal garden of ‘hope’. By combining the utopian and dystopian images, Denis merges the incompatible and reaches the forced absurdity of today´s life, in the Kali Yuga era.

Is this caused by of Kali Yuga, (according to Hinduism, the dark age of suffering before the apocalypse), which the author briefly points to … what kind of an experiment can prove this theory?
However, the very idea of sending people who are branded as unusable, doomed to explore the universe, to kill each other in the wasteland, to become the slaves of their own complexes and to succumb to manipulation of others ‘behind the closed doors’; extraordinary well describes just another perversion of the modern civilization at this ‘age of fighting and hypocrisy’.

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Miss Amrita comes from Croatia. To her, art is a materialization of a spiritual world and she wants to observe the various ways of how art reaches and evokes spiritual visions. She focuses mainly on the emancipation of both women and men, models of relationships, the perception of the world, human rights, models of modern societies, freedom of speech and expression. She graduated from the Faculty of Graphic Arts and works as a yoga teacher, lecturer and occasional columnist. She has worked in event management of several cultural manifestations, congresses and sports events in Croatia for the last 15 years.

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