Today I watched Panos Cosmatos’ Beyond the Black Rainbow (2010)
Much of Canadian culture can by typified as playing with a sense of nostalgia for a time that never existed and this film follows in that tradition. In this case the film mimics older science fiction, most notably the works of David Cronenberg and John Carpenter, but it pushes the tropes inherent in their work into an extreme that sets it apart as original and new. The film’s story concerns a new age commune that purports to be all about healing and alternative medicine, what is actually going on though is a program of intense psychological torture being administered to a young woman in the hopes of expanding human consciousness and mental ability.
This film will strike you first with it’s intense visuals and soundtrack. The look of the film is typifies by intense geometry and colours working within a very minimalist framework. The extreme style of these images and sounds seems almost singe minded in building an austere atmosphere of dread and totalitarian mental control. It parodies and criticizes the new age movement by contrasting it with outright attempts at mind control and the terrible fallout that ensues.
I found the film very effective at setting mood and establishing a terrifying tone. The soundtrack, heavily inspired by the work of John Carpenter in its intense synth sound, is integral to this as there is very little dialogue in this film and the protagonist pretty much never speaks, so the music speaks for her. There are plenty of other impressionistic ideas on display here including the use of colour, the film really experiments with how colour is perceived by a camera and pushes the envelope in terms of striking visual design.
This is an intense film and its slow pacing only amplifies the emotional chaos underlying the whole narrative. While some might say the pace is problematic, I found it integral to this film eliciting an emotional reaction from me. I think almost every element here is incredible and the film only starts to lose steam at the very end with a short episode concerning some drunks in the woods, though the final anti-climax is particularly brilliant and surprising. This may be a tough film to digest but it is most definitely worth it. 5/5