Beyond the Black Rainbow

SYS film critic Neil Martin has his brain melted by the debut film from Panos Cosmatos. Will it leave you hating it or putting it in your top 10 list of movies. If you’re anything like Neil, the film will end and you won’t be sure how to feel about it:

Panos Cosmatos’ astonishing debut film is a mind-warping psychedelic journey that will leave viewers confused, frustrated, elated, ecstatic, angry, bored and enraptured. Some will hate it whilst for others it will be the greatest film they have seen in their life. I suspect that lots of people, myself included, will come away saying something like “Wow! That was amazing but I’m not sure if it was any good?”

What plot there is follows Barry Nyle working at some sort of institution/commune that has the feel of a cult about it. He seems to be concerned with controlling the heavily sedated and possibly dangerously psychic Elena who keeps wandering around the facility in an attempt to escape. There are some allusions to experiments with hallucinogens and other consciousness expanding drugs that may or may not be responsible for Barry going mad due to what he saw “Beyond the black rainbow”. Then it gets weird!

The film is set in a futuristic 1983 and borrows the aesthetic of the time and of many cult sci-fi films of the 70s & 80s. It captures this very well and looks stunning; all neon, soft focus and grainy lo-fi film stock. The highlight of the film is without doubt the incredible analogue synth score by Jeremy Schmidt (keyboard player for space rockers Black Mountain). It is the perfect accompaniment for the beautiful visuals and the burbling pads, hypnotic leads & deep squelchy basses ensure the viewer is immersed completely in Cosmatos’ world.

A word of warning though, this film is incredibly slow paced and fairly incoherent in terms of plot. If 2001 was too fast paced for you then this might just be your perfect film but for many it may become an endurance test. For those interested in Kubrick, early Cronenberg, Tarkovsky & Jodorowsky and those drawn to the psychedelic side of life, this will be a treat that is sure to become a cult midnight movie in years to come. For those less explorative film fans out there, approach with caution and as the guru at the beginning of the film says, “Let the new age of enlightenment begin!”

Review by Neil Martin. Contact Neil here.