Beyond the Black Rainbow

Beyond the Black Rainbow

Beyond the Black Rainbow is a highly stylized head-trip that makes you wonder if the experiment is really on you.

8.3 /10

To say Beyond the Black Rainbow is trippy is an understatement, I have a feeling some LSD trips are less intense as this. It is visually stunning with plenty of color filters, distortions, and off-the wall compositions that takes you to a futuristic alternate reality which makes you feel like you are the one on drugs. The only other film I can say had this same effect on me is Enter The Void. Beyond the Black Rainbow will take you on a trip, whether it is a good or bad one is up for you to decide. It is a midnight movie that has cult classic written all over it.

Opening with an infomercial style video set in 1983, Dr. Mercurio Arboria (Scott Hylands) states the purpose of the Arboria Institute. Their goal is to find the “perfect way for people to achieve happiness, contentment, inner peace.” The Institute claims to have found a way to make that dream a reality through their unique practices. I found the whole opening similar eerily similar to the Dharma Initiative training videos from the television series Lost (one of my all-time favorite shows).

Beyond the Black Rainbow movie review

Inside the state of the art facilities of Arboria Institute is the administrator Barry Nyle (Michael Rogers) who speaks into the microphone that sounds to the other side of the glass where our film’s mute protagonist Elena (Eva Allan) sits with her head hanging down. She does not look up but rather just sits and listens to what Barry has to say. Almost always he is trying to get a response out of her by saying something like how sorry he was that she never got to meet her mother and how beautiful she was.

Barry is a breathy speaker who seems to have special powers over his patients which he may or may not get from the pills that he takes himself. He is not the only one that contains special powers but no one but he is able to look through the eyes of God, as he puts it. He sees what others cannot, beautiful things like a black rainbows.

Then the film goes off for an hour on a highly stylized head-trip that makes you wonder if the experiment is really on you. Director Pano Cosmatos takes you on a hypnotic trip into an alternate reality on a level that few can achieve through cinema. It is only the beginning and the end that there is much of a plot and subsequently when reality sets back in, which is it’s biggest downfall.

Apparently at one of the Q&A’s, someone asked Cosmatos, “Can you help me understand better” and the first time filmmaker responded in a deadpan tone, “I don’t think I can.” This makes me believe that the director intended the film to not be one that someone understands but rather experiences.

The score is easily the best I have heard this year so far and will likely remain that way. Without it the film would not be the same, it sets the ominous feeling that lingers in the film. It was a score so perfectly fitting that even the synth masters themselves, Daft Punk, would have a hard time replicating the mood.

I think it would be fair to draw some comparisons to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 Space Odyssey after watching Beyond the Black Rainbow. There is the obvious futuristic aspect where machines with flashing red buttons have tremendous power in a bright white minimalistic environment. Then you have the eerie repetitive soundtrack that accompanies the film nearly the entire time. Even the mood was unusual, creepy, and peculiar, like often found in Kubrick films.

Beyond the Black Rainbow more feels like a dream than anything else, scratch that, a nightmare. There is little to no plot as it ditches everything that is conventional for avant garde. Films like this, ones not driven by story but rather an experience, are the ones that you walk away from not knowing exactly how you feel about them because they are tough to analysis. One thing is for sure, it will likely be the most original film you see in a few years’ time.

Beyond the Black Rainbow Movie review

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  • L. Sammondson

    This film is actually terrible – I mean, yeah – it is scary in the sense that its creepy, but I think, really, the film is just the byproduct of global DVD residuals from the directors father – allowing Panatos to string together a series of overproduced, overgrained interior sequences, cheap synth score and a slasher movie ending, and trying to pass it off as a ‘cult movie’, when really we, the audience, need to know who, what or where the protagonist is coming from, what her dramatic need is, who she interacts with, and so on. The set designers are VERY indebted to classic films and the script is mostly weak, humourless and lacks anything called ‘character depth’ or ‘story development’.

    I guess, as an amateur filmmaker, Panatos hoped that his empty, overproduced film would have enough atmosphere to work, but its really just testament to the fact that he can’t communicate with the medium. One festival reviewer suggested that the use of close ups, obtrusive editing and overamped lighting is just a way to paste over the sheer lack of content. I agree, pretty much. This film should be fifteen minutes long.

  • It’s definitely the case of style over substance. It’s more of an experience than a cohesive narrative, but clearly you didn’t enjoy the film as much as we did.

  • L. Sammondson

    if I was Canadian, and interested in horror films, I might defend the film – its definitely creepy, but also you have a film here where the protagonist has zero character definition and much of the very deliberate color grading and lighting makes the film look like it has gaping continuity errors. I can’t help but feel that the film was a vanity project enabled only, really, because the director inherits DVD residuals from his director father. Its just not a substantive movie, but I guess, if you want a horror film, the mean spirited dialogue, creepiness and stabbings will make it worthwhile, but those aren’t really features of a great movie in general.