Review: Beyond the Black Rainbow / Cert: TBC / Director: Panos Cosmatos / Screenplay: Panos Cosmatos / Starring: Eva Allan, Michael Rogers, Scott Hylands, Marilyn Norry / UK Release Date: TBC
When you think about the directorial debuts of some of our greatest auteurs, you think of some of the best style exercises that cinema has to offer. Two examples of this are Darren Aronofsky’s Pi and David Lynch’s Eraserhead, and we think it’s fair to say neither of which had the most compelling of plots yet the style overwhelmed the audience and they served as calling cards for what these directors would go on to do. Now there is director Panos Cosmatos and his debut Beyond the Black Rainbow, a fascinating and equally infuriating exercise in style over substance that demands to be seen at least once.
Set in 1983, a handy infomercial informs us that we are about to enter the Arboria Institute, a mental home/cult retreat. Here we find patient Elena (Allan) who appears to have psychic powers, being treated by Barry Nyle (Rogers) who seems to be the only doctor left at the facility. Elena cannot seem to escape due to some pyramid shaped piece of technology that keeps her abilities in check. That’s about it for the plot; and yet this is stretched out to two hours because the pace is SLOW, anyone not used to the more considered pace of Kubrick, Lynch or Malick is likely to walk out. Even if you do fall under its spell and become hypnotised by its style, it’s likely the pace will still test you to your limits.
Beyond the Black Rainbow is the cinematic equivalent of a Rorschach test (almost literally at one point), Cosmatos presents you with a barrage of imagery which you are trusted to interpret and process. Is the film about the failed dream of the 1960s? When a legion of LSD enthusiasts preaching peace and love dreamt a dream that never came and were twisted by the drugs and bitterness? It could be and the last thirty minutes when the film becomes more conventional could be the clue to that interpretation. Dr. Nyle emerges from a disguise in a truly stunning sequence when all new age pretence is removed to reveal the twisted monster in hiding. There again the whole thing could be just empty, it could mean nothing at all and just be the doodling of a Cronenberg fanatic. The imagery is the important thing here, and what Cosmatos has accomplished is pretty astounding. You truly believe you are watching a sci-fi movie from the early ‘80s and the use of colour is frankly amazing.
This film is a cinematic trip well worth taking; it’s not an easy, breezy Saturday night viewing experience but if you feel open to it and enlightened enough in your viewing habits then it may just be one of the most rewarding experiences you’ll have this year.
Expected Rating: 9 out of 10