Who are you, what are you? – A Film Review of Beyond the Black Rainbow

Beyond the Black Rainbow film poster

If Andre Tarkovsky, Stanley Kubrick and George Lucas had collaborated to create an über strange art house sci-fi film it would most likely resemble the inner workings of Beyond the Black Rainbow. Canadian filmmaker Panos Cosmatos’ first feature film is an amalgamation of the ethereal crawl of Solaris, set in a Kubrickian vision of the future with a plot akin to THX 1138. The clinical aesthetic of Beyond the Black Rainbow has been drawn upon as backdrop for countless ‘asylum’ centered films and there is no question of where Cosmatos’ creative inspiration stems from. His predecessors are boldly acknowledged through the futuristic set design and intricate mise-en-scene, yet the film still stands unique and begs to be understood on a conceptual level.

Premièring at the Tribeca Film festival in 2011 and the Montreal Fantasia Film Festival the same year, Beyond the Black Rainbow has been gaining a cult following despite its narrow release, which is set to change next month thanks to Magnet Releasing (Magnolia Pictures). Undeniably, the film will appeal most to a niche of cinephiles who devour visual feasts or alternatively to those who prefer a ‘pharmatose’ viewing experience. Nevertheless, it is a stunning film of accomplishment for a first time filmmaker whose roots in music video production are present in the astute attention placed on sound design. The haunting score, designed by Jeremy Schmidt of Black Mountain, is sure to slowly immerse you into a trancelike viewing state.

Set in 1983, as previous generations would have imagine it to be, Beyond the Back Rainbow takes place at the Arboria Institute, a hidden den that claims to help you find true happiness and solace. Once inside the institute, it is clear that the only patient of importance is the ingénue Elena (Eva Allan). The young and beautiful capture is forced to endure ‘therapeutic’ sessions facilitated by the ultra creepy Dr. Barry Nyle (Michael Rogers) who transforms from pill-popping junkie to supernatural zombie psychopath as the film progresses. With an 11 page script, it is evident that dialogue is a mere accessory here, as Cosmatos’ chooses to execute his film through an experimental vision in the same vein as a curated video installation. Spellbound by the beauty of this dystopian nightmare, questions concerning the loosely woven plot are allowed to remain unanswered. Beyond the Black Rainbow will blow your mind, if you let it. Leave your expectations at the door, dowse yourself in its hypnotic rhythm and engage in this experimental misadventure.

March 29, 2012 / By