This review was originally posted last September during Fantastic Fest 2011. We have decided to re-post it due to Destroy the Brain hosting the St. Louis premiere of the film this weekend. Beyond the Black Rainbow will screen at midnight this Friday, July 6 and Saturday, July 7 at the Hi-Pointe Theatre.
“Hey man . . . when did you drop?” Many people might see Panos Cosmatos‘ feature film debut as an excuse to take some acid and kick back and look at pretty colors. He’s obviously not the only one who has made a film in this vein. This can also be said of such films as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Eraserhead, and El Topo. Not a bad group of films to be a part of. Granted, you don’t have to partake in illegal substances to enjoy those films or this new ambitious piece of cinema. What’s interesting though is the fact that the three films previously mentioned seem to be clear inspirations for Panos and his bizarre kaleidoscope colored alternate past. Beyond the Black Rainbow, like those films, is a worthy addition to a line-up of future midnight movies that seems destined to be rescued over the coming years by film-lovers (drug-induced or not) exclaiming, “How did no one notice this film before?”
It’s hard to describe the plot to a film that is meant to exist as a film experience rather than presenting a distinct narrative. But I’ll do the best I can do. The film opens in an alternate 1983. A world where a new science research facility, ARBORIA, is taking steps to develop new mind-altering drugs that explore the far reaches of the mind. Alena, held captive in the institute, seems to be developing new psychic powers as a result of the experiments conducted by Barry Nyle (Michael Rogers). What follows is a visual trip through the psyche of both characters imagined through abstract and colorful imagery.
Panos Cosmatos has created a sensory masterpiece that is best viewed on the big-screen. Find your largest movie screen with the best sound system and sit back and witness a truly unique film experience. Beyond the Black Rainbow explores the power of imagery in a way that would make Alejandro Jodorowsky, Ken Russell, and Stanley Kubrick proud. The film asks a lot of its audience considering not a lot of dialogue is given to hold your interest. This experience will either make or break someone going into this film. Thankfully, the compositions on the screen are unbelievably gorgeous and trance inducing. If you find yourself falling asleep, I can’t say that I blame you. Between the visuals and the analog score that is reminiscent of John Carpenter in the 1980′s, I found myself entering a dreamlike state that is abruptly broken until the film’s final minutes. In many ways, the film’s use of colors and shapes which endlessly morph into one another conveys the emotions of the characters without a single line of dialogue, while also showing how the simplicity of an image can be even more striking than the CGI landscapes we’ve come to expect from modern cinema.
Combining equal parts of Altered States and THX 1138, as lit by Mario Bava, Beyond the Black Rainbow exists as an astounding debut from a director who reminds us that film is truly a visual medium. Panos Cosmatos’ decision to deliver a more ambiguous story in-lieu of a hypnotic dream is going to gain as many critics as it will fans. If you can set aside your preconceived notions of film, story, and narrative, Beyond the Black Rainbow is a gorgeous trip that will take you from “somewhere over the rainbow” to the Holy Mountain.