Dawn Breaks Behind The Eyes


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Dawn Breaks Behind The Eyes
"It will delight the eyes whether or not you succeed in engaging with its underlying ideas." | Photo: Courtesy of FrightFest

A couple arrive at a magnificent, albeit somewhat dilapidated, stately home in the middle of nowhere. It’s the woman to whom this has been bequeathed. The man makes a point of saying ‘we’ a lot, his attitude proprietary toward woman and house alike, his anger growing as she makes herself at ease. She has a sensual encounter with something barely glimpsed in a mirror. He’s afraid to explore the basement. Lost car keys necessitate an overnight stay. Have we seen this before? Most certainly, suggests filmmaker Kevin Kopacka, deftly pulling away the first of several elaborately woven rugs. Perhaps a better question is: did we learn anything from it? And how many times do we have to go through it again before we will?

A curious choice for Frightfest 2021, chosen perhaps because it requires an understanding of the visual language of several horror subgenres, Kopacka’s playful metacinematic endeavour is as gorgeously realised as it is wilfully esoteric. To wit, it will delight the eyes whether or not you succeed in engaging with its underlying ideas. If the opening montage and the font choice for the titles don’t give it away, its heart is in that period around the late Sixties and early Seventies when, briefly, experimental cinema had mainstream appeal, and there are ample references you films of the era for fans to enjoy.

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The narrative proper – such as it is – explores the relationship between the aforementioned man and woman, considering the way that it might play out in different contexts. Simultaneously, it is exploring our expectations of relationships in films more widely and asking how much we base our own intimate interactions on these and other fictional tropes. What does it take to break free from the constraints of the script, to examine our own lives and determine our own courses without depending on pre-existing templates? Unless we do that, can it really mean anything to say that we are in love?

Kopacka is clearly in love with that stately home, the inspiration for the film and for many of his visual compositions. He observes it the way his female protagonist observes the male, with a degree of admiration for its unchanged state, its resilience over the years, yet with an eye which constantly searches for flexibility. Numerous scenarios are played out in this landscape, from film shoots to dinner parties to orgies. If they all look familiar, that’s part of the spell. They have never looked as beautiful. One might easily hope for this enchantment to endure, but that suits some better than others, and in the end, change comes to all things.

Reviewed on: 28 Aug 2021
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Dawn Breaks Behind The Eyes packshot
A couple spend eternity in a castle until their reality starts to shift, as the unknown moves into their lives.

Director: Kevin Kopacka

Writer: Kevin Kopacka, Lili Villányi

Starring: Anna Platen, Jeff Wilbusch, Frederik von Lüttichau, Luisa Taraz

Year: 2021

Runtime: 73 minutes

Country: Germany


Frightfest 2021

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