Year: 2010 (release pending)
Director: Panos Cosmatos
Writers: Panos Cosmatos
Region of Origin: Canada
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Rating: Unrated
35mm, Color, 110 mins

Synopsis: Deep within the mysterious Arboria Institute, a disturbed and beautiful girl is held captive by a doctor in search of inner peace. Her mind controlled by a sinister technology. If she hopes to escape, she must journey through the darkest reaches of The Institute… but her captor won’t easily part with his most gifted and dangerous creation. (Source)

I went through 5 stages while watching Panos Cosmatos’ art sci-fi wet dream, Beyond The Black Rainbow: Awe, disappointment, acceptance, fright, and finally fulfillment. The movie is what it is; namely the ultimate fanwank homage to all the sci-fi greats Cosmatos no doubt grew up idolizing. You can literally pick out the influences here one by one: Tarkovsky, Kubrick, Carpenter, Argento, Cronenberg or even Marc Caro, the gang’s all here. You would also be correct to get excited at the prospect of watching one big mixture featuring all the aforementioned directors’ trademarks together, especially since Cosmatos pretty much nails all their characteristics perfectly; the problem is however, is that his skillful homage also pinpoints the emptiness of Black Rainbow’s non-existent story. Whereas the former directors all had strong sense of purpose and sometimes even philosophical and political debates with their pieces, Beyond The Black Rainbow is as empty as it is beautiful to look at and hear (there’s an amazing analog soundtrack by Sinoia Caves). What made it ultimately fulfilling to me however, is that once I accepted the fact that it wasn’t going to deliver a real narrative, I realized that it still worked as a beautiful stream of consciousness art-piece; one that slowly tears down the barriers of your subconscious whilst covertly entering in and treating you to one of the most hallucinatory and confounding nightmares you’re likely to ever experience.

The movie begins with a creepy advertisement for a research institute name Arboria, which deals in giving true happiness or spiritual awakening/enlightenment to it’s clients. Flash forward and something’s gone wrong. Time’s elapsed since Arboria’s inception and now there’s just one real patient left named Elena (Eva Allan). There’s also only one doctor remaining named Barry (Michael Rogers) who gets a strange sort of pleasure from watching the institute’s last patient day and night. Soon enough, we find out that Elena’s got some strange abilities that I won’t spoil here, and there are some pretty frightening creations which roam about the facility from time to time. The further the movie progresses, the stranger it gets, pulling you deeper and deeper into artful sequences that will make you feel as if you’re on a drug-induced binge.

While there isn’t any real character development, Michael Rogers’ creeptastic performance creates one wholly memorable character. He looks and acts exactly like an older Christian Bale, while still creating his own persona, being magnetic and gradually unsettling whenever he’s on screen. Eva Allan as the “protagonist” also holds down her part pretty well, considering that she pretty much never talks in the entire movie. Both are interesting to watch and indispensable parts to the movie’s visual enigma.

Despite the story’s loose semblance of a plot, the real star of the show is Cosmatos’ intricately crafted visual experience. It’s as if Matthew Barney and Trent Reznor remade 2001: A Space Odyssey the way they’d think John Carpenter would imagine it. The production design is breathtaking in it’s minimal and stark geometric approach. Colors wash over the screen like a stained glass womb, and the constant disorienting angles soon make you feel lost in your own thoughts. Sound design and music are all excellent throughout, slowly ratcheting up tension for the barrage of impressionistic images that you can’t easily forget (especially towards the end). I even grew to absolutely love the movie’s extremely…… slow……. pace, forcing you the viewer to fill in a lot of the films empty narrative, and creating a more interactive experience. Add to this that the movie looks like a legitimate 70’s, early 80’s movie and you can imagine why it’s such a treat to watch.

In the end I love the movie as a full-blown art piece. You can’t go into it expecting a narrative or a story with an emotional hook. If you go into it knowing what to expect, and like the same prerequisite influences however, there isn’t a way that you can be disappointed with the movie’s sci-fi fever dream experience. Bonus: How sick is this poster for the movie!?

Crome Rating: 3.5/5

SG