Once Monte and Willow draw closer to the black hole, what exactly do they find? The specifics might be difficult to parse in real time, but it's worth noting that the film's tremulous final moments draw visual inspiration from "Contact," an instillation Eliasson created as part of his solo exhibition at the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris and that Denis turned into a short film back in 2014. The yellow glow of light that Pattinson stands in front of, illuminating the closely cropped hair on his head, is remarkably similar to the images you see in Denis's short.
Before making "Contact," Denis was interested in Eliasson's work, which often takes the viewer on a journey by using large-scale sculptures and bright lights, and was introduced to him by British producer Oliver Dungey in Denmark. Like Denis, he shares an interest in natural science and his work often inspires a meditative, contemplative mood. "Olafur and me, we understood each other really well," explains Denis. "That's why I made 'Contact' with him."
Long before the script was finalized, Denis knew that the imagery from "Contact" would play a role in High Life. She wanted representations of space that were "believable" and "not crazy things." The uncanniness of the film's ending, its combination of the abstract and the tactile, is part of what makes it so powerful. Are Monte and Willow about to be destroyed by the black hole? Are they already dead? Or are they merely moving on to another, perhaps higher, state of being?
That ambiguity and tenderness can also be felt in the final exchange between Monte and Willow, where he asks her, "Shall we?" She responds with an affirmative, "Yes." For Denis, the void that is a black hole is not a terrifying concept; instead she finds them hopeful because of how they provide "proof that the universe is a material we don't know yet completely." The lack of certainty is exactly the point.
"I was on the verge of crying and we were all completely moved," says Denis when asked about filming the final scene with Pattinson and Ross. "This ending, we made it on real film because the effect of the orange light, the ghost light, discolors the skin, but not on digital. The effect exists on film. It peels the red in film, and in digital, you cannot peel something. So we were shooting 35mm scope at the end. It was only one day of shooting, a very precious day."