BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW – Fantastic Fest Review
The number of films that can be legitimately classified as an experience are few. More than merely a movie, those that do surface from the traditional fray are usually unforgettable. BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW is one of these experiences, having embedded itself deeply in my mind. One of the reasons I chose to wait a few days before writing this review is that the film is continues to be absorbed into my memory. This is a film that does require some time to digest. To fully appreciate the film, patience and an open mind are required. Suggesting the film needs time to be fully understood, however, is a flawed approach to its viewing, which is at least partially a subjective endeavor.
BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW is written and directed by Panos Cosmatos, his first feature film that ultimately earned the filmmaker the “Boldness of Vision” award at Fantastic Fest 2011. There is good reason for this, as bold is definitely the appropriate way of describing the director’s vision, which is clearly his own creation, made exactly as he intended the film to be seen. With that said, this is not a film for everyone. Much like the experience of viewing Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, or more recently with Terrence Malick’s THE TREE OF LIFE, this is a film that will spread slowly over time, gradually infecting the hearts and minds of a certain niche of cinephiles. Generally speaking, audiences will either love or hate this film, but no one with any sense cinematic fluency can say its not a brilliantly made film. This sounds like an extremely polarizing statement, but I tread lightly in fear of making the film sound pretentious… but its anything but the dreaded “P-word.”
Taking its time to establish its characters and plot, BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW dodged the bullet of being a bring film. Slowness does not equate to boring, but be sure you’re not watching the film on a lack of sleep or while drunk. Fair warning. The story follows a young woman named Elena (Eva Allen) being held within a sterile room, housed within a massive, futuristic institute. The other central character of the very small cast is a strange authoritarian figure named Barry (Michael Rogers). Barry has an eerie, vaguely transparent obsession with Elena, a fixation that grows in intensity as his character’s own state of mind deteriorates.
This facility becomes a character of its own, a seemingly new age center for wellness. Central to this institute is a sort of minimally designed crystal contraption, which is only one of the many ingredients in Cosmatos’ visual concept that can be traced to influential films such as LOGAN’S RUN. Thinking along this same train of thought, the film also has within its experimental husk an array of broader genre influences. Lovingly placed just beneath the surface is the director’s love for ’80s era cinema, particularly the slasher genre, but in a far less traditional embodiment. The film also draws from a more visually identifiable genre classics, such as BLADE RUNNER.
The cinematography (Norm Li) of BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW is gorgeous, saturated with basic colors, but softened in focus and in its use of filters and diffused light. Truly, the film is an incredible achievement of indie filmmaking by a first-time filmmaker. If nothing else, this should be respected as a work of motion picture art, accompanied by a hypnotic synthesized score (Jeremy Schmidt) that perfectly compliments the visuals, worthy of being a stand alone experience for the ears, a audio treat that the filmmaker himself has hopes of being released on vinyl with an accompanying download. Fingers crossed.
An attempt to comprehensively explain the story of BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW would be as exhausting as it would be doing the viewer a great injustice. Much the the Grand Canyon, et al great wonders of the world, BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW is a film that simply must be experienced first hand. The film has been picked up by Magnet for distribution, so keep your eyes peeled for an official release date, not yet announced.