Film Review: Beyond the Black Rainbow (2010)

Release date: 31 December 2010

Director: Panos Cosmatos

Starring: Eva Allan, Michael Rogers, Scott Hylands

This is an extraordinary film. The chances are that if you are reading this you are a sci-fi fan, if that is the case I cannot imagine how you would not want to see this film. More than that I think the majority will love this film. It has been informally described as David Lynch meets Stanley Kubrick. It has the eerie surreal feel to a Lynch film without making you feel that you are wasting your time or missing the bigger picture, Lynch for me is a bit like modern art- you know it is supposed to be good but you are not sure why, if you stare at it long enough you might work it out, but then is it worth it? I didn’t experience that feeling of miserable confusion with Black Rainbow at all. What I did feel was shock, every scene I was enjoying it and disturbed by it, I was unsure of it all but I could definitly follow what was happening. That truly rare experience is what endeared me to this film. I would go so far as to say that this is a unique film because it blends a number of aspects, ideas, -perhaps genres-, but certainly has a spectacularly peculiar effect.

Kubrick appears in the look of the film, specifically the retro feel- the film is set in the early 80s and the visual effects, make-up and backdrop are convincing in the extreme. The set textures will remind you of the glossy surfaces and diode lights to be found in Tron and 2001: Space Odyssey. Which is classic rather than recherche or redundant, and there are even some possible plot comparisons to be made with both films in that this script has at its heart the Existential. You would be forgiven for thinking that this means there is no action, and certainly Black Rainbow has no laser guns or space ships but there is no shortage of physical action, violence and heartpounding moments. It is perhaps best to label this film as a thriller.

There is so much richness in this film it is hard to represent it all in a review, this is quite remarkable considering that the visual world and the dialogue is rather minimalist. Which is not to say that it is lacking, far from it- each scene is absolutely gorgeous to look at. My jaw was open, my eyes wide and my mouth salivating at every frame. I mean EVERY frame. Each angle and shot, the lighting, the movement and pose of each actor- it is meticulously cinematic. An art which is rather marginalised into arty films these days. There is of course a heavy ‘artsy’ element to this film, but -again- that would be to marginalise what is a fantastic film and easily as accessible as Kubrick’s best. This is not a children’s film, the themes are adult but more than that it takes an adult’s mind to really get to grips with the ideas involved. As we are told in the opening sequence, the premiss for what is to come is the search for happiness, with uncomfortable overtones and consequences.

On the topic of mariginalisation, you will wonder if this film is so good why you haven’t heard about it. I actually wondered that myself after I watched it. At first I suspected it was actually made a few decades back and that it had just been buried as an oddity, but I found it was made in 2010- and with a continuing obscurity I am sure it will in fact be buried as an oddity after all. I can only hope that it will endure as a cult classic. I think the real reason for its obscurity is that there are no great names attached to the cast or crew. The film was written and directed by the same individual (which is normally a bad sign of a limited vision in my experience) and he (Panos Cosmatos) has neither written nor directed anything since. Make of that what you will.

The Jungian and Freudian motifs in the film will become quickly apparent and Cosmatos seems to be resting his mission on this. It deals with the relationship between a psychiatrist (Barry Nyle) and a patient (Elena) at what can only be described as a cutting-edge experimental psychological health centre. Yeah, I know that is a mouthful. The patient is a heavily-sedated young girl, and the doctor has his own issues, and his own medication. Nyle is obsessed with the enigmatic Elena, whilst she is intent on escape. The character of Nyle is impressive, most of his dialogue is perfectly ‘normal’ but he is acted outstandingly so that it appears to mean something else entirely, it speaks volumes as they say. It is that depth and richness, while maintaining a tasteful simplicity that will -I hope- astound you. This film is a real journey, it is disturbing, horrifying, but ultimately refreshing and very entertaining. If you can find it, spend money on it.

  • Alex Bigman

    haven’t heard of this flick….sounds amazing…gonna watch today and will report back! thanks for the rec!

    • scifimethods

      Glad you liked the article, Alex! It will be interesting to read your thoughts.

  • Jack

    The imagery and cinematography was really amazing, but I found the film to be otherwise boring and the story was kind of flat.