“Let the new age of enlightenment begin”: ‘Beyond the Black Rainbow’ Review

Posted in The Screening Room by - April 12, 2017
“Let the new age of enlightenment begin”: ‘Beyond the Black Rainbow’ Review

Acid trips. Psychic research. Control. All of these elements collide in Panos Cosmatos’ gloriously deranged Beyond the Black Rainbow. While it might seem like it borrows heavily from other great works of science fiction, like THX 1138 or Altered States, Cosmatos’ film is its own absorbing head trip of a film that is visually dazzling as it is thematically rich.

While its premise might seem simple at first, a young girl with psychic abilities is being kept against her will by a psychopathic doctor trying to suppress and understand her abilities; Beyond the Black Rainbow actually, offers a lot of heady subject matter that Cosmatos inserts underneath its surface.

Its central premise of a captive that is in a hidden underground lab is very THX 1138, Cosmatos also introduces crazier elements like psychotic behavior, psychic research, and enlightenment (you’ll know when that starts because let’s just say that Cosmatos amply uses all his visual tools to explore that concept). Cosmatos’ film manages to feel both excitingly retro (the 80s period setting is perfectly crafted right down to the wonderful use of 35mm film) and weirdly modern at times.

Aesthetically, Beyond is simply an intoxicating film; a sumptuous feast for the eyes that proves to transcend its B-movie roots into something of a thematically tricky science fiction gem that dares to provoke and challenge its viewers. Even though Cosmatos keeps his cast small, it is Eva Allan as Elena, the young girl with psychic abilities, and Michael Rogers as Dr. Barry Nyle who provide the film with its powerful dramatic center. Their dynamic and fascinating interactions make the film more than just a visual delight but rather a science fiction mind-bender with thought-provoking aspirations and dramatic weight.

Rogers, especially, is absolutely terrifying as the crazed doctor who develops a strange obsession with Elena. Throughout the film, you’re able to see hints that maybe Dr. Nyle isn’t that stable but when it comes to showing that transition, Rogers excels and he absolutely knocks it out of the park. Another great supporting performance is Scott Hylands as Dr. Mercurio Arboria, the legendary scientist who creates the Arboria Institute and Dr. Nyle’s mentor. Hylands brings a sense of gravitas and pathos to Arboria but above all stands as one of the personifications of what Cosmatos explores in the film: power in the hands of an institution.

I’ve already mentioned how Beyond the Black Rainbow is an absolute visual delight but if there’s another insanely memorable thing that Cosmatos’ film has it’s its gorgeous and borderline transcendent score by Sinoia Caves. Heavy on moody synthesizers and appropriately electronic (it perfectly fits into classic 80s scores in the tradition of those done by Tangerine Dream or Giorgio Moroder), Caves’ score wonderfully compliments the disturbing visuals that Cosmatos paints but in a way that doesn’t distract but rather augments the experience.

Beyond the Black Rainbow is reminiscent of classic science fiction films like THX 1138 and it even has hints of A Clockwork Orange, but Cosmatos’ film is its own surreal and thoroughly engaging creation. A dazzling piece of filmmaking that illustrates the fears of institutional paranoia through gorgeously disturbing visuals and beautifully psychedelic images; Beyond the Black Rainbow is a fascinating and visually striking science fiction story that deserves to be elevated to cult classic status.

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He is an avid movie fan and loves to write about movies perhaps a little too much. He also considers Casino Royale to be the best James Bond film ever made and he's ready to defend at any moment.
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