Few films have ever been able to leave me in awe the way that 2010’s Beyond the Black Rainbow. Feeling as if Satan had directed 2001 instead of Kubrick, the film is a visceral, otherworldly experience in a league of its own. Yet, it’s been shrouded in obscurity.
I can’t really figure out why either, especially the popularity of a so-so movie such as this years The Void. The two films have a lot of common, but Beyond the Black Rainbow is able to succeed in many areas that The Void falls short. Both are unsettling and influenced by a love of 1980’s science fiction horror crossover films. John Carpenter is a clear inspiration for both; the imagery and mood seem to be lifted directly from the horror maestro’s mind. However, Black Rainbow is able to take such influences and mold them into something I’ve never encountered before. A rehash this most certainly is not.
Beyond the Black Rainbow, written and directed by Panos Cosmatos, follows the story of a young girl trapped within the mysterious Arboria institute. Elena, played by Eva Bourne, has some sort of strange powers. Dr. Barry Nyle (Michael Rogers) has taken a keen interest in the girl; an interest that has a yet-to-be-revealed sinister motive underneath. But not much in the film will ever be explained to you outright. This is a film that takes concentration and commitment. In order for Cosmatos’ film to work, you must be willing to absorb yourself in the images, colors, and sounds flashing before you.
And in doing this, Cosmatos has created a more colorful and more streamlined hybrid of Eraserhead and the aforementioned 2001 orchestrated by a stunning, synthesized soundtrack that owes more than just a little bit to John Carpenter. After adding in a final element of Dario Argento’s use of intentional and always vibrant color, you have something highly unsettling and refreshingly unique – a movie that, like Lynch’s best works, are better left felt than explained.
Rogers’ performance is magnificent, as is Bourne’s. Both members of the main cast appear to have a clear grip of the subject material; they never overstep their boundaries or attempt to overact. Their actions and movements are subtle, quiet, and stifled – except when it comes time unrestrained brutality.
If you are a movie fan who needs everything to be explained in plainest terms for you, this may not be the best viewing choice. Yet for those who crave something more cerebral and interpretive, Beyond the Black Rainbow is a surefire bet. I can only guess that the relative obscurity of this film comes from a case of poor and unfortunate timing, as films that are sopping wet with ’80s aesthetics seemed to have exploded three to four years after the release of Cosmatos’ haunting, dreamy film.
At the end of the film you may be asking yourself what it all means. And to that, I have no answer. I know what it means to me, but the beauty of films that are open to interpretation are that you can pull your own truth out of the film. Does Elena really ever escape, or is she doomed to being institutionalized for all of her existence? Does her imprisonment ever end, or is she doomed to be confined by the trappings of the modern world for the rest of her life?
Watch it with an open mind with no distractions. Appreciate the colors and the abstract imagery. Try to let the sound take you on a journey. If you allow Beyond the Black Rainbow to pull you in, you will be rewarded with a cinematic experience you may never forget.