Beyond the Black Rainbow
Beyond the Black Rainbow is essentially the Canadian lovechild that occurred after Kubrick and Cronenberg had an epic hookup while listening to some trance – then David Lynch popped by to say “hi.” Check this out –
Unfortunately, this lovechild didn’t really pop out as perfectly as that glorious trifecta would imply – but I’ll get to that later.
The plot, what little we have, revolves around the dynamic between Dr. Barry Nyle and Elena within the realm of the Aboria Institute circa 1980. As somewhat established, the Institute was built to help reach transcendence through science – Elena being the only proof of this phenomenon. Meanwhile Barry, Aboria’s #1 guy, lives a rather asinine existence – part putting up with his stuporous wife, part tormenting Elena simply because he can. Really though, Barry’s contempt for Elena stems from a deep-rooted jealousy, that she was in fact the only arguably “successful” outcome of Aboria’s treatments. Barry on the other hand, is a monster. After his exposure to Aboria’s…techniques, Barry is rendered a psychopath most fragile – a violent madman behind a composed facade.
After a round of hazing most cruel, Elena is soon set free by one of the Institute’s underlings, beginning her escape through Aboria’s labyrinth. Almost simultaneously, Barry strips away his disguise, revealing the creature Aboria unintentionally created. Finally accepting his true identity, Barry relentlessly hunts Elena dies as she rediscovers the world around her.
How can this story be almost two hours long? Mind-bending cinematography at a snail’s pace, that’s how. Not that it’s a bad thing – sure was a lot more fun to watch than Tree of Life. This picture is so beautifully filmed – sitting through it is a sometimes disturbing, but absolutely sublime experience. So while you’re given plenty of time to digest possible themes (and there are a few – control and identity, for instance), your eyeballs are subjected to all sorts of pleasures. I suppose I could also describe Beyond the Black Rainbow as a really long, glorified music video, but really I’d like to give director Panos Cosmatos (if that is your real name) more credit than that.
As mentioned, there is a downside: the style outweighs the substance. Did it really need to be two hours long? No, not really. Though Cosmatos even mentions that the “hypnotic” pace was deliberate in order to create this self-described trance sub-genre, on found it’s far too easy to space out on the visuals than to piece together a coherent theme or themes. Again, such is the risk of creating a two-hour trance music video. On the upside, this warrants multiple viewings if so desired. Despite this, Beyond the Black Rainbow is definitely worth your time, if you’re up for it.
It would seem Beyond the Black Rainbow does not have the cult film recognition it deserves. Perhaps it’s not old enough, or maybe because it’s one of those sneaky Canadian films that, like so many, were swept under the radar. The world may never know.