High-Rise Book coverIn a seemingly perfect meld of director and source material it was announced today that Ben Wheatley is to direct Amy Jump’s adaptation of the 1975 JG Ballard novel High Rise. There have been previous attempts at bringing the story to the big screen in the past, most notably by Nicolas Roeg a few years following the novel’s publication and recently Splice director Vincenzo Natali was attached to the project.

The novel followed on from The Atrocity Exhibition, Crash and Concrete Island and deals with the similar breaking down of the illusions of conformity society surrounds itself with. The High-Rise in question is a modern apartment whose occupants become divided into a hierarchical class system, the lower class at the ground floor and so on up. Petty conflicts light the touchpaper and soon the building is closed off and the society within devolves into chaos and violence.

The shattering of shared social illusions is a theme we’ve seen before from Wheatley and Jump, Sightseers threw murder into a jaunty rambling holiday and the recent hallucinogenic chaos from the Civil War from A Field in England was a beautifully realised devolution of a society at war with itself.

Speaking to Screen Daily Wheatley said of the book,

The scope of the film is exciting. It will be challenging, like Crash, but it’s not as dark as Kill List. The book is pretty out there, though

Of the novel’s ‘sci-fi’ label Ballard said in one of his last interviews,

I see High-Rise and The Atrocity Exhibition referred to as science fiction. It’s partly shorthand, but it’s also a way of defusing the threat. By calling a novel like Crash science fiction, you isolate the book and you don’t think about what it is. You can forget about it.

It is doubtful that in adapting the novel Amy Jump has in any way diluted the pervasive sense of threat. Ballard’s high satire should find a key collaborator in Wheatley and Jump, and with HanWay and Film4 on board the director should be able to have his vision delivered in pure form to the screen.

The film is expected to begin shooting next year.