By Jonathan Holin
Written and Directed by Panos Cosmatos
Beyond the Black Rainbow is a loving tribute to the midnight horror/sci-fi head trips of the 60s, 70s and 80s; a dazzling, if sometimes slow genre exercise in style and mood.
Set in an alternate version of 1983, in a commune called Arboria, Beyond the Black Rainbow has dystopic whiffs of films such as Logan’s Run and THX-1138, but with vividly disturbing and at times gory imagery.
Elena (Eva Allan) is kept alone in a chamber, seemingly studied by Nyle for her telekinetic abilities, while subdued by a strange glowing prism. When she tries to escape the bizarre Arboria, Dr. Nyle pursues his beloved experiment.
Arboria seems to be a sort of futuristic version of Henry David Thoreau’s Walden. A place, we’re told, where the keys to happiness are sought. However, nothing in Arboria resembles spiritual contentedness or transcendence, though the decorator was probably on heavy amounts of LSD. Dr. Nyle speaks with a quiet, lonely desperation, always on the verge, of forgetting himself in divergent thought.
More than anything Beyond the Black Rainbow is a display of technical talent. The sterile, angular set designs remind of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, and the inspiration for Jeremy Schmidt’s oppressively beautiful score can be found in a number of sci-fi classics.
Nothing that happens is explained in full. The most stunning scene is a black and white flashback that may or may not explain the present action of the film. It’s up to the audience to piece together what the point is, or if there is one at all. Cyborgs in leather outfits patrol the radiating halls. There are rooms holding stranger and more horrifying creatures than Elena. Why? For what purpose?
Most of all, Beyond the Black Rainbow is a film to let engulf your senses. If you’re willing to give up about 2 hours and stick through the slow build-up, it’s definitely worth the trip down memory lane.
Beyond the Black Rainbow isn’t perfect, but it more than succeeds aesthetically, as both homage to cult classics, and a contemporary classic in and of itself. This is a film I will gladly sit down for and watch again, both for the sensory experience and to hopefully gain a better understanding of the understated plot.
Note: Pay attention to the frequent use of reflections and mirrors in the film.