In 2010, I first encountered the trailer for Beyond the Black Rainbow. I instantly knew that I wanted to see the film. I have a soft spot for movies that come across as weird, bizarre, and over the top, hoping to one day find the film that is too weird for my tastes. Though I didn't have high hopes for Beyond the Black Rainbow, I figured it would come across as trying too hard.
Director/writer Panos Cosmatos' science fiction thriller is set in 1983, confined to The Arboria Institute, a New Age compound designed by Dr. Mercurio Arboria. We're introduced to the two leads, Dr. Barry Nyles (Michael Rogers) and his patient, Elana (Eva Allan.) We soon come to realize that Dr. Nyles isn't quite the New Age utopian psychiatrist it would appear and Elana is more prisoner than patient. As the story progresses we're introduced to a few minor characters and things get more bizarre little by little until we're full bore in the middle of a psychedelic nightmare.
The downfall of the first half is that the characters come across as very two dimensional. Two dimensional characters don't work in a movie like this, though it is more mood driven than character driven, much of the mood is derived from the emotion attached to the characters and its difficult to attach emotion to a two dimensional character.
Thankfully it picks up and we see how the main actors, Rogers and Allan, can shine and create a depth for the characters they portray. We get a much better sense of who the characters are and create emotions towards each of the characters, even the minor characters. How Rogers makes you feel about Doctor Nyles is the second best part of the movie.
Not only does the 35mm give the film a retro quality but the way Cosmatos put the score together showcases what seems an obvious influence by Stanley Kubrick, if not an outright homage. Honestly the movie screams Kubrick, with the score and sound effects the direction of each scene. But Cosmatos does it in an original manner, putting his stamp on the film, while still paying respect to a bygone era.
Beyond the Black Rainbow is a solid film. With that said it’s not for everyone. If you can't sit through 45 minutes of thinking "why am I doing this to myself" then it might not be the movie for you. Even at its best the movie is a bit disjointed. It's a very mood heavy piece, dialogue is sparse and visuals are heavy. Its an homage not only to films of the 70s and 80s, but the ideas and tropes of the time period as well. It takes the New Age utopian ideal of the 60s and 70s and turns it into an acid trip from hell. The movie is great, I'd recommend it and I anticipate Panos Cosmatos sophomore effort.
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