Beyond The Black Rainbow

Beyond The Black Rainbow

***1/2

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

The rich and strange debut of Panos Cosmatos throbs with style and portent, which proves a winning combination even if it is somewhat light in the narrative department. Set in a paradoxically retro and futuristic 1983, Cosmatos uses trippy, unsettling visuals, amped-up synth scoring and the fate of his mute, telepathic protagonist Elena (Eva Allan) to explore notions of control, both of the mind and the physical world. And despite holding echoes of films from the Seventies and Eighties including, but certainly not limited to, 2001: A Space Odyssey, THX 1138, Firestarter and Solaris, Cosmatos displays the muscle and, perhaps ironically, control needed to produce something that has a distinctive character all of its own that marks it out and stops it ever becoming merely a regurgitated soup of its references.

The plot, so far as it is possible to decipher anything in the midst of this stream-of-consciousness trip of a film, sees Elena trapped in and desperate to escape from a stark laboratory room where she is given a limited level of sensory input so that her emotions can be duly harvested by shadowy scientists - most notably Barry Nyle (Michael Rogers). This sinister soul, who has his own disturbingly bizarre drug regimen, is one of the only people to communicate with Elena and may well desire more than just her emotional reaction. "This is always the highlight of my day," he says, as he watches a tear trickle down her cheek.

Copy picture

All the while, somewhere, a pyramid-shaped crystal throbs with a level of sinister energy that you wouldn't think it was possible for a modern-day director to achieve without pushing things into pastiche. In fact, although there is a surprising amount of humour to be found in the film, Cosmatos never lets these moments undermine the overall feeling of Kafka-esque dread.

Cosmatos has a tight grip of the directorial reins and even when the narrative is overwhelmed by cinematographer Norm Li's eye-popping visuals, which make use of cloud tanks and heightened colours, his film maintains a hypnotic rhythm. He renders objects almost 'alive' by the use of extreme close-up and this, coupled with an enhanced soundscape, in which the mere click of a pen can sound like the loading of a gun, gives all the action an off-kilter, disturbing edge. Rogers, meanwhile, manages to bring out the absurdity of his character, while still maintaining an air of menace.

If you like your narrative pathways clearly defined, then you may well find Cosmatos' debut pushes into prentension, but if you enjoy films that evoke and explore atmosphere and leave you to make what you will in terms of plot, then you've bought the right ticket. Either way, one future is certainly looking bright - that of Cosmatos, whose brave and bold stylings mark him out as a director to watch.

Reviewed on: 11 May 2011
Share this with others on...
Beyond The Black Rainbow packshot
Sci-fi fable about a young woman imprisoned in an experimental laboratory facility and the mysterious scientist who is her captor.
Amazon link

Festivals:

Tribeca 2011

Search database:


Related Articles:

Retro Rainbow

If you like this, try:

2001: A Space Odyssey
Solaris