HOFF 2011: BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW Review

Ben Umstead, East Coast Editor
Ethereal and Transgressive (Capitals E & T being very important), Beyond The Black Rainbow and its director, Panos Cosmatos, largely live up to their strange namesakes.


It would be far too easy to label Cosmatos' first feature effort as overly derived from 80s sci-fi and fantasy flicks. Sure, one may see strands of Cronenberg, Carpenter, or even Tarkovsky films in its makeup. One could even get the sense that the sets are lit with an over-sized Light Bright and built from Lego, but to dismiss the film as a nostalgic wet dream, a remixed remix, is to dismiss a filmmaker with a voice all his own. Yes, it's a developing one, and thus it encounters some cracking and croaking along the way, but Cosmatos has arrived on the scene with something quite special. What that something special is will not be for everyone, and it may frustrate others, but for those who stick with it, the journey of Beyond The Black Rainbow should be  a rewarding one; albeit on a more metaphysical and visceral level rather than on an intellectual or emotional one.


Barry Nyle is a disciple of Dr. Mercurio Arboria, the head of a scientific initiative not unlike Lost's Dharma. Barry is also the keeper of a young woman with extraordinary powers named Elena. Her powers are kept in check by a floating crystal pyramid. Like a force field, this limits her movements of both mind and body to a small white room, with only a cold slab for a bed and a TV monitor in the wall. If she disobeys Barry, he turns up a dial that causes her to collapse into a seizure. Everyday he comes to visit Elena, who never looks at him and never speaks. Sometimes he asks her questions, sometimes those questions lead to tests and even torture, which in Barry's eyes seem more and more like games.


The insidiousness of Barry is evident from frame one. Played by Michael Rogers with serpent-like aplomb, he is our guide into this strange world of primordial ooze and mutant men; our hero, our villain, the man with the black eyes of a doll.


As a director, Cosmatos is meticulous and economical. Every single shot counts, every small gesture like the dropping of cigarette ash or the setting down of keys - all captured in extreme close ups - heightens the constant dread the picture pulsates with. Nothing is superfluous. Even if just for atmosphere, even if just to add a visual accent to Sinoa Caves' brooding electronic score.


And as the film slowly unravels and expands its world, placing its puzzle pieces out in plain sight, larger messages and themes do emerge. But what it all means will largely be up to what the viewers themselves bring to the table. Machinations on control, the grotesque masculine urge for power, media as enlightenment for the masses. It's all there. My best suggestion for watching Beyond The Black Rainbow is to sit back, relax and ingest its black heart of liquid chrome, freely, and without much thought.  Inhale. Swallow. Exhale. Inhale. And get ready for quite a trip.       


Screens: April, 28, 29
  
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