How do you describe a movie like Beyond The Black Rainbow, much less review it with a critical eye? It’s bizarre, hypnotic, compelling, disturbing, and stunning. My only complaint is that I was unable to witness the spectacle on the big screen, but even on DVD the movie is powerful and incredible.
Beyond The Black Rainbow presents a basic story, one we’ve heard before: a controlling doctor, a mysterious clinic, a tormented patient. There are other, less clear-cut or easily understood elements that contribute to the unsettling, overwhelming experience of watching Beyond The Black Rainbow. To attempt an explanation would be to rob the viewer of witnessing and interpreting these things for him or herself.
There are influences, to be sure—Altered States, The Grudge, Suspiria, The Brood—but nothing feels stolen. Beyond The Black Rainbow is a universe unto itself. It’s beautiful and horrible at the same time.
As Dr. Barry Nyle, Michael Rogers is absolutely menacing. His face constantly struggles with some inner rage or madness. Eva Allen plays Elena, the fearful yet fearsome patient/inmate. She doesn’t speak, or at least not with words. Although we are also introduced to Dr. Mercurio Arboria, the founder of the clinic and Dr. Nyle’s wife Rosemary, they remain as unfathomable as Dr. Nyle and Elena. Things are said, but what is implied under the surface is far more troubling, much like some of the things we see that are never explained.
Visually, the film is brilliant. The setting of The Arboria Clinic takes place in the future of 1983, or at least what the future was predicted to look like from the vantage point of those who predicted those sorts of things in the distant past. It’s fairly accurate in recapturing that time, which gives the movie a sense of being outside of time, yet totally of it’s time. The fact it was made in 2010 forces these two conflicting ideas together until they vibrate on the screen.
Filled with shots that are out of focus on purpose and extreme, distorted close-ups, Beyond The Black Rainbow is both uncomfortable and lyrical. The framing of subjects is not quite centered; in a low-budget movie mocked on MST 3K this might be something to criticize. Here, it adds to the sense of distortion and uncomfortable unreality.
The use of color is exceptional. While tones of red, blue, green, black, and white dominate the Arboria Clinic, Dr. Nyle’s home is earth tones, plants, shag carpet, soft lighting. One of the most terrifying scenes in the movie is washed out black and white alternated with intense primary colors.
Jeremy Schmidt, here credited as Sinoia Caves and also a member of Black Mountain, has composed a sensual yet spooky score that perfectly complements the story. It hums like machinery and haunts like a ghost.
Beyond The Black Rainbow is truly unlike anything I’ve ever seen. If you are looking for a mind-blowing visual and aural feast, it’s something you need to see. Although it’s short on narrative cohesion, it proves that Panos Cosmatos is a director with genuine talent at not only envisioning but also realizing a new world on the screen (and beyond, if you’ll pardon the obvious reference).
Beyond The Black Rainbow was released by Magnet Releasing on September 11 on Blu-Ray and DVD. The DVD also includes the trailer and a deleted special effect called “Deleted Special Effect: Ballistic Head Dissolve.”