STANDARD: As you know, you only pick unique films when selecting a role. How did you choose Claire Denis?
Pattinson: I discovered Claire’s films only at the age of 25 years. I had no idea how legendary she is among movie lovers. White material was discovered on television in the middle of the night, one of the best films I’ve ever seen. The next day, I immediately called my agent and implored him that I really wanted to meet Denis. It became an obsession – I made up for all the films, Beau Travail, Nenette and Boni, S’en fout la mort – their cinema does not feel like normal cinema.
STANDARD: Is the way you control your career a reaction to the fame you’ve gained through Twilight?
Pattinson: I just find it more interesting to work with these directors. My courage for risk seduces me. You can find out more about yourself. The most exciting part of the work lies in the moment, there is a more direct line to inspiration. When I read Claire’s script for the first time, I still thought, “What !?” But it was clear that I would trust her. Then I met her for the first time in Paris, and she spoke for a long time about Ian Curtis, the singer of Joy Division. I wondered how that was related to the role – but of course it took me on a track: loneliness.
STANDARD: Did you know the script draft by Zadie Smith, which was initially there?
Pattinson: I would have liked to know it! I love her books. Denis and Smith have two very different personalities, that would have been interesting.
STANDARD: Now the film is more reminiscent of philosophical science-fiction movies like “Solaris”, “2001” or “Silent Running” …
Pattinson: I think the movie is also incredibly funny! The first time I saw him alone, I had to laugh all the time. Yesterday at the premiere, on the other hand, there was complete silence – I would have been the only one! Of course, the premise is very grim, but there are so many, sometimes absurd, details that show how fearless Claire is. Just think about how Juliette Binoche speaks of this girl with the big butt – I find that to be roaring! Claire writes so personally that she is overheard in the characters.
STANDARD: For a science-fiction movie in particular, there is a lot of physicality in “high life”, also about a fake sexual politics, the space ship even has a “fuck room”. Did you particularly care about the physical aspects of Denis’ cinema?
Pattinson: I think there is something shameless about the way she sets the body in the light. You can see that actors act more unconsciously with their bodies. Claire looks differently at her skin, you can see the sweat, textures. Also, I know, probably because I am English, this oppressive consciousness of my own body. If you feel constrained as a performer, then it’s great to meet someone who wants to break through these insecurities. In an interview with her, I once read that she actually wants to touch the body but is then held back by her embarrassment, even shame. The camera becomes a means by which this becomes possible. And you can really feel that.
STANDARD: You mean, you can feel it while filming?
Pattinson: Yes, the nice thing is you do not really have to do that much. Because Claire sees, whatever you do. I’m fascinated by the sensuality of their cinema.
STANDARD: There are also some scenes with a baby, which adds a new, warmer side to your character. Was there special confidence-building measures for this?
Pattinson: Every morning there were long minutes when the little girl cried because we just took her away from her parents! No, seriously, half of the scenes were basically just for the purpose of entertaining them. Nonstop in one go through. You just have to stick to it – a carelessness is enough, and she is crying again!
STANDARD: Is it true that you cast the baby?
Pattinson: Yeah, with the first one, it would have been another movie: That was screaming when I just approached it. That’s why we called a friend of mine in the middle of the night: “We need your daughter!”
STANDARD: The view that “high life” casts on the future of humanity could hardly be more pessimistic. Do you include this superordinate dimension in the work on the set?
Pattinson: No, you can not always think of such fundamental, dark questions … But I found it exciting that the film openly treats taboos, even scratching incest. My character is a condemned man – he must have been in custody as a child. But if you turn, you have to be able to throw something off. The scenes with the baby, for example: Since you just react to his counterpart. You put pieces together just by marching on. That the figure also changes, perhaps becomes more human, is ultimately the beauty of this process.