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95 of 111 people found the following review helpful
Just because most of the films you watch have easily discernible plots does not mean that films presented otherwise are poorly made. Think of Beyond the Black Rainbow as poetry, not as a novel. If you need a clear explanation stay away from this film. You'll hate it. If you can enjoy the bizarre, wild mood, and viscerally gorgeous photographic visuals then stick around. If you enjoy films where everything is not spelled out for you then this too might be a sign that Beyond the Black Rainbow is for you. Think of it as the privilege of entering someone else's dream.

In the vein of Land of the Lost, Space 1999, Liquid Sky, Altered States, Coma, Looker, THX1138, Scanners, 2001, and filmmakers like Kubrick, David Cronenberg, Stan Brakhage, Kenneth Anger and dozens of other films and filmmakers I know and don't know from the 70s and 80s comes Beyond the Black Rainbow. It is a fever dream of a film that is more experience than linear narrative. Imagine a B film from the 1980s was lost and never seen. Beyond the Black Rainbow is supposed to be that lost film. It's here as if from a time machine. The film is a homage to low budget gems from the past; something only seen in some off the beaten path theater away from civilization.

Now despite all reports to the contrary there is some semblance of a narrative here. Remember though that what follows is my interpretation of what I saw. The film is open ended enough to serve yours too. The film is carefully and skillfully constructed so I assume if he wanted things explained more, he would have simply done that. Like the famous Kubrick/Lovecraft quote: "In all things mysterious - never explain."

Spoilers / interpretations ahead:

If I had to write one line that summed up this films narrative that would be that: "The road to hell is paved with good intentions." The film begins with a short film within a film. An idealistic doctor, Mercurio Arboria, introducing his institutions 1960s mission statement about striving to make a better happier you. The Arboria Institute has very noble and altruistic pursuits. Cut to 1983 and we are witness to the tail end of what ever went on there. Bizarre, uncanny, morbid, awkward, claustrophobic, dreamlike, conspiracy, telekinetic, kaleidoscopic, are all words that help describe what exactly is going on deep inside the Arboria institute. Clearly the ideals that started the place have been abandoned or steered the once noble men into dark corners of science and the mind. Clearly as a species any of us can see what horrors humankinds good intentions have produced. David Cronenberg's early films often showed science run amok. Scanners, Videodrome, and The Fly come to mind where the horrific ends are far from where the science was intended to take the protagonists. This is the crux of what this film is communicating. Human idealism is going to lead us to unexpected places, likely dark, likely far from where we thought we'd wind up. Hence the films title, Beyond the Black Rainbow. Where ever that is, it's far away from where we thought we'd end up.

A lone beautiful girl Elena is catatonic in her cell deep in the Aboria institute. She shows signs of telekinesis. Dr. Barry Nyle keeps Elena under control. Her telekinesis is dampened by a mysterious machine and possibly drugs that keep her powers under control. We eventually learn that she is the probable offspring of her doctor and another woman who was killed to make way for the new age of enlightenment. The 2 doctors have gone mad in the warren of corridors and passageways as they pop pills, drop acid, and shoot up Timothy Leary style. Odd automatons that reminded me of the automatons from The Black Hole or the robots from THX1138 roam the institute too. An ignorant nurse also comes across a compiled medical record of Elena and her powers and the years of insanely odd science that had been applied to her. It served as on of the films most unnerving and beautifully collaged moments.

Barry Nyle clearly has come to the end of his rope and decades of drugs, clinical observations, and hiding his unnatural appearance under wraps with a bad wig and contacts have taken their toll on him. We glimpse the founder, Dr. Mercurio Arboria, deep in the bowels of the institute. He is the shell of his once former self and seems to be on the tail end of decades of drug addiction and watching idealistic nature films. It seems as though Barry wants to ask him for something regarding his increasing fascination with Elena but we are given a flashback that reminded me of the film Begotten. Harsh black and white imagery serves to show us the bizarre science ritual that Barry had to undergo in years past. He emerges from a black pool a changed man and then proceeds to impregnate and/or kill Elena's mother. The child, Elena, is kept alive. Whatever the hell they wound up doing, Elena is the partial result. I was also reminded of Akira too with the telekinesis and I'm sure the homage's and influences are endless.

Eventually Elena escapes or is allowed to escape by her doctor. This reminded me of when THX1138 was eventually off his meds and decided to roam freely and explored the odd world he lived in, eventually escaping to the outside world. Elena too escapes and takes us on the wildest ride you are likely to ever be witness to. Again I was reminded of another film, O Lucky Man, where Malcolm McDowell's character is in a hospital at one point and gets up to have a look see and discovers horrors beyond his wildest dreams.

The film ends with a confrontation between Barry and Elena in a field somewhere away from the institute. Two 80s burnouts are unfortunate enough to be in the paranoid path of Barry before he finds her and it's no surprise how the two end up. There is some comedy in here for sure, and again, a nod to many funny awkwardly filmed moments like this from B films of yore.

Elena, no longer under the control of the institute's bizarre machine, and is free to easily tangle Barry's feet with roots and smash him to the ground, his head hitting a rock, killing him. Elena wanders off out of the field to the edge of a neighborhood where we see a TV illuminating one room of a darkened house. We know she is heading there. Then the film ends. After the credits roll we are given a quick shot of an action figure of one of the automatons from earlier. Then a quote from Buckarro Banzi: "no matter where you go, there you are." Buckarro Banzi is on of the 1980s more bizarre and odd films to have come out, an odd amalgam of studio authorization of a very bizarre story. It's no wonder the films creator admires this enough to put it in there.

Again, this film is for those who don't mind letting art flow over them and endlessly picking a film apart. It's dreamlike and not easily explained. It needs to be interpreted rather than explained. Despite it being bizarre I suggest you don't shy away from it. There are few modern films out there like this and it's a sheer delight to have experienced.
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
Nine Things About the Movie “Beyond the Black Rainbow” [Canada, 2010]

1. There are four kinds of drug movies:

a) movies about how terrible drugs are - most movies are of this type.

b) movies that show drugs are funny and harmless - these are the weed movies like “Friday” and “Pineapple Express”.

c) movies that can only really be appreciated if you are on drugs - movies like “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”, “Brazil”, “2001: A Space Odyssey”, or “Apocalypse Now”..

d) then there is the most rare movie of all - the movie that is itself a drug. These are movies that try to cause you to feel the same way that a psychedelic experience will.

2. This movie is in the last category. There is no way to describe this movie in regular language. Combining Kubrick, Cronenberg, Lynch, Burroughs, and Lovecraft, this isn't even really a movie by traditional standards, but an experiment in using cinema to alter consciousness.

3. The director himself called this a “trance film”, and downplayed the actual story for an atmospheric and dream-like experience.

4. It's set in 1983, but the soul of the film is locked in an acid-induced fever dream from 1965. The plot, if it matters, is about a telepathic girl held against her will in a bizarre hospital, while her doctor does strange things with drugs and a glowing crystal in an attempt to find ultimate reality. Or something like that.

5. The movie shows the dark side of the hippy movement. While trying to bring peace and light to the world, the movie argues that hippies did just the opposite, causing people to go too far in their quest for inner peace - whether it was from drugs or occult games. The Balance was upset.

6. There is not much violence, and even less sex, in this film. This film is concerned with issues far beyond such mundane dramas. For example, if you don’t get the reference that the movie’s drugs are provided by a pharmacy named “Benway”... well, then you can’t fully appreciate what the movie is reaching for. I’m sorry.

7.The film uses amazing old-school visuals and mesmerising soundscapes to make the viewer feel... weird. Trippy. Comfortably uncomfortable. The movie exterminates rational thought. Some people will understand this. Some won’t.

8. I’ve seen the film more than once, and each time I swear they changed the movie and added in scenes that weren’t there before.

9. I don’t need to tell you if you should watch this movie - you already know by the time you’ve read this far .If you are questioning whether this movie is for you… well, then it’s probably not.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on February 22, 2013
A young woman is trapped in a room in a lab, being observed and experimented on. A sinister doctor talks to her through the glass every day but she never responds or even looks at him. The neon-coated visuals, synth soundtrack and antique computer monitor displays are all meant to give the impression that this is a movie made in the early 1980's, a fact further reinforced by a scene in which Ronald Reagan makes an appearance on a television screen. Beyond the Black Rainbow looks and sounds great--one just wishes that it was more than an empty-headed exercise in style. In terms of story virtually nothing happens. You never find out much of anything about either of the main characters and there's no suspense or twists or action or anything--just those pretty visuals and a soundtrack that John Carpenter probably would have been pleased with. This is worth a look but it could have been a whole lot better..
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on July 29, 2014
A slick psychedelic ride that transcends madness, this film cannot be easily pigeonholed into any single particular genre. Director Panos Cosmatos approaches the story from a hauntingly minimalist approach, with the scenes occurring within the Arboria Institute's confines providing the viewer with almost the same sensory deprivation that the female lead Elena (played by Eva Allen) suffers on a nearly-continual basis in order to control her abilities. Complimenting this minimalist approach is composer Jeremy Schmidt's retro electronic soundtrack, which adds an even more desolate and haunting aspect to this already beautifully dark film. From the beginning credits we as the audience find ourselves standing on the precipice between utter insanity (portrayed flawlessly by Michael Rogers) and the total enlightenment sought by Dr. Mercurio Arboria (Scott Hylands) in the film, and from there we only spiral further in.
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29 of 39 people found the following review helpful
on October 4, 2012
I will warn you right up front: if someone tells you this film is similar to Kubrick, they are wrong... or at least not scholars of Sci-Fi. This is much much closer to Tarkovsky (a director who makes Kubrick look introductory with regards to cinema).

The story starts out slowly, it never really explains what exactly has happened (ala Tarkovsky's Stalker or the middle period works of Jodorowsky), which is precisely how things should be done.

Adding to the atmosphere as the film builds, is the excellent soundtrack by Black Mountain's keyboard player/organist Jeremy Schmidt, who really adds to that whole retro vibe.

More than anything, I'm hoping that this film is a sign of a return to the weird/boundary pushing science fiction of the 70s. It recalls the era of Tarkovsky's hey day, The Holy Mountain, Black Moon, countless other films that are incredible, insular, and lush.

If none of this scares you, it is well worth your time. Honestly? It's nowhere near as long and "shot perfect" as Tarkovsky or Kurosawa or late period Bergman, but it certainly aspires to those heights.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on October 2, 2012
Though he may not be a household name, I've enjoyed much of director George P. Cosmatos' work, including Rambo: First Blood Part II, Cobra, Leviathan, Tombstone and the underrated Of Unknown Origin, wherein Peter Weller goes nuts and destroys his home in an attempt to kill a rodent of particular nuisance. His better-known films may have never risen above entertaining popcorn-fare, but it's clear he had an economy of style and the ability to push forward a cohesive narrative. George passed away in 2005, but the "film gene" passed to his son Panos Cosmatos, whom has presented us with his debut feature, "Beyond the Black Rainbow," a film that could not be further from the style and presentation of his father, which, in this case, is meant as a compliment and not a criticism.

The plot is minimalist at best, centering on a mostly mute young girl named Elena (Eva Allen, at times resembling a cleaned up version of the albino Grudge ghost), who possesses psychic powers, and her experiences in the Arboria Institute, a quasi-high-tech establishment that promises to unlock the pathway to happiness via "alternative" practices. Monitoring her progress is Dr. Barry Nile, portrayed with slithery aplomb courtesy of Michael Rodgers, looking like an underfed and over-the-hill Christian Bale. The film follows mostly just these two characters, Nile generally tormenting Elena in different ways to gauge her abilities as he himself spirals into various crevasses of derangement. Eventually, Elena begins to seek a way out of the institute and away from Nile's' abuses. And that pretty much takes up the crux of the runtime. But it's clear that Cosmatos' focus is not on an engaging and coherent narrative or relatable, deeply nuanced characters; no, this film is meant to evoke a visceral rather than intellectual response.

The first thing one notices upon viewing this film, and which also happens to be it's strongest point, is the retro-futuristic visual style. Using the film stocks and camera lenses that were common in the 80's, the "look" of the film mimics that bygone era to the point where it wouldn't require any stretch of the imagination to suppose that it has been locked away in a vault for the past 30 years. It's obvious that Cosmatos was influenced by certain filmmakers of this era in his slow, measured pacing, cinematography and editing. The balanced frames and sparse environments nod to Kubrick, while the mood and atmosphere call to mind John Carpenter's early career. The bold primaries that splash almost every frame evoke Argento. The result is a mesmerizing mishmash of recognizable styles blended into something wholly unique. It's a love letter to analog filmmaking that I haven't seen since Planet Terror, but without its tongue-in-cheek nostalgia.

The film even works as a period piece, despite the fact that it takes place in 1983. There are no cell phones or laptops, it's all huge, beige corded handsets and recessed cathode ray tube monitors with black backgrounds and flickering green fonts. It captures the era in every aesthetic. The sound design is an amazingly hypnotic combination of synthetic drones and hums with sparse, hauntingly minimal music that again recalls Carpenter's soundtracks.

Unfortunately for most, the overall experience is one of obvious style over substance. This is not a typical homogenized film that's been screen-tested to death in an effort to appeal to the widest possible audience; this is the definition of a niche film. It is weird, bizarre and doesn't make a whole lot of sense. It doesn't go from A to B in a logical manner, and it doesn't tidily resolve what little exposition is given. It's slow, meandering and veers off in the third act. I couldn't care less; it maintains its hallucinatory quality throughout and I found myself transfixed for the entire duration.

Panos Cosmatos may be his father's son, but the two couldn't be further apart in terms of style and intent. Panos couldn't be less interested in commercial appeal and as a result, has debuted one of the most impressive experimental films of recent memory. I, for one, eagerly await his sophomore effort. I'm interested to see what he does when he combines his strong visionary sense with perhaps a more fleshed-out script and more engaging characters. At the very least, I think this film has all the right ingredients to become a future cult classic.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on September 14, 2013
I love this film.

If you spent at least part of your childhood in the 70's and early 80's as I did and were exposed early to trippy and sometimes incomprehensible (to a kid) sci-fi and horror like the Visitor, Phantasm, 2001: a space odyssey, Altered States and others that blew your mind then you have a good chance of loving this movie too.

Set design is great and the music really sells the 70's atmosphere. It is not perfect but then again nothing is.

Some people say this film has no story but that couldn't be further from the truth. There is not much dialogue, but that shouldn't be confused with a lack of story. Like those films I mentioned above, this one gives you just enough to understand what's going on and allows your imagination run with it. It really took me back to my childhood enjoyment and sense of wonder at such films - something I never get with the typical hollywood pap that passes for sci-fi these days.

The only reason I wouldn't want a sequel to this film is that it would go against the spirit of it as an homage to those films of my youth which rarely got any sequels other than the ones you imagined for yourself (ok some of those flicks i mention eventually got sequels but not until many years later...) However I really hope to see more films in this vein.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on October 13, 2012
Many cannot resist the impulse to describe Beyond the Black Rainbow as an art film. In the end Beyond the Black Rainbow is a good verses evil sci-fi film.
The story is told in a very unconventional way. There is no spoon feeding here. The filmmakers allow you to interpret some of the story elements on your own- story elements usually clear in other films. For example 'Why' Elana is a prisoner at the institute? Why is the Doctor so adamant about emotionally torturing her?

The first 45 minutes of the film are all really close shots, many out of focus which to me is visual language for how Elana feels in her prison. She is heavily medicated and locked in a room. And those shots make the whole story feel so much more intense. But I believe these close shot sequences are why people feel its 'artsy'-but clearly they have purpose if you understand how a camera can depict emotion.

There is red light always around the Doctor, of course suggesting he is evil, Elana in her white gown suggesting innocence. It's all very brilliant in the way the story is told visually. And it had to be that way because there is not much dialogue. And the dialogue is not particularly important. The end is also very much unconventional. You anticipate a very epic showdown. But it is not the one you expect. Watch the end credits through to see a clue that some what explains something more about the ending. And again left up for interpretation but it is disturbing to say the least.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on October 31, 2012
I loved this movie and I'm glad I bought it before seeing it. The Directing style was in the vain of David Lynch with the stylistics of Dario Argento's saturation of colors seen in Suspiria. Beyond the Black Rainbow gave you enough so that you could make accurate assumptions about what was going on without spoon feeding you the plot. This movie is the Psychological Thriller that horror buffs have been waiting for - where its almost like gore has been over done, shaky-cam has been over done, cheap scares have been over done, etc... Beyond the Black Rainbow is the breathe of fresh air, the anxiety attack that is exactly the anti-horror horror movie to love.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on October 6, 2012
After seeing the trailer for this bizarre flick, I knew I had to see it. The 80s synth music, bold colors and mysterious looking characters just sucked me in. The film itself was just what I expected from the trailer: psychological and very obscure. This is not a film for everyone, but one that someone who appreciates out-of-the-box style with simple gorgeous and haunting cinematography will find themselves in for a treat with. The film is more experience than entertainment.
Source: criticnic.com 3-October-2012
Disclosure: Film sent by Magnet Releaseing
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