This week sees the release of the film High Rise, an adaption of JG Ballard’s dystopian novel first published in 1975. This was among Ballard’s darkest and most gripping novels, perhaps surpassed only by Crash. The story describes in clinical detail the breakdown of society within a prestigious and luxurious tower block. As with much of his best writing, the imagery is surreal, blackly comic and disconcertingly plausible
He was clearly exploring relevant and timely themes as in the same year, David Cronenberg’s debut film Shivers also depicted the unleashing of violence and hedonism within a high rise, though in that case caused by a strain of blood hungry parasite. Ballard didn’t need parasites to push his characters into brutality – it was already there beneath the veneer of civilization.
High Rise is one of my favourite books. I read it in the space of a day which I think is the best way to experience it. It’s a hard novel to put down and just as hard to shake off afterwards. If you’re going to see the film – and it does look very promising – make sure you try reading the original novel first.
In the meantime, in celebration of Ballard’s unique vision , here are a selection of my photos of the high rises of my own home city in all their beauty and terror.
Damian Mark Whittle