When the first trailer was released for Panos Cosmatos’ debut feature, “Beyond the Black Rainbow,” it proved to be one of the most compelling and enjoyable previews in recent memory. Living up to that 90 second teaser seemed like a long shot, and though the film doesn’t entirely work as a whole, there’s a true vision here that’s to be respected.
“Beyond the Black Rainbow” tells the story of a teenager (Eva Allan) who’s trapped in a facility where she loses control of her mind. It’s up to her to escape from the futuristic laboratory where she has lived her entire life.
For his first feature, Cosmatos takes on a highly ambitious project. Overall the film is a treat for the senses. He gets a very strong performance from Allan and although she has no lines, her portrayal of a trapped character is wonderful.
There are many parts of “Beyond the Black Rainbow” that succeed. Easily the most fleshed out of all of these aspects is the visual style. Cosmatos’ aesthetic is clear from the beginning and by being clear about it, he allows for the visuals to fire on all cylinders.
Cosmatos takes an interesting turn in setting the film in 1983, and then on top of that, having almost all of the sets evoke a futuristic feeling. It’s rare to see a film explore futuristic concepts when it’s set in the past, but it works here.
Oddly enough it seems like “Beyond the Black Rainbow” would have worked better if it pushed aside almost all of the story and allowed itself to give in to the visuals. There is one interesting storyline going on, and it’s mainly the backbone of the entire picture.
Allan’s attempt to escape from the facility is the most interesting aspect of the film. This takes up most of the last half of the movie and much of it is exceptionally well-crafted. The audience gets to see a lot of the facility and it shows off the highly detailed production design and sets.
However, there’s the other storyline that’s taking place, involving the man running the show, Barry (Michael Rogers). The audience is shown how he ended up at the facility in the first place and in turn, how Allan got there, but it ends up being a rather tiresome diversion.
It’s clear what Cosmatos’ vision is and whether it be style over substance, most of the time it ends up working. Anyone going into the film looking for an engaging story will be disappointed as it’s not necessarily anything new.
The picture’s color palette is refreshing and a treat for anyone who enjoys Technicolor films. The movie has a real pop, reminiscent of Dario Argento’s “Suspira” and Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s “The Red Shoes.”
Not only is the visual style similar to older films but it could even be compared to Gasper Noé’s “Enter the Void,” which did quite the opposite of “Beyond the Black Rainbow” by focusing mainly on visuals while putting its story on the back burner.
The film reaches across the entire spectrum of sci-fi, utilizing dreary and dark colors and at the same time, adding some impressive shades of red. The editing and cinematography techniques are a nice touch and these are showcased when Allan attempts to escape.
Along with the visual style, cinematography and color palette, the other strongest aspect of “Beyond the Black Rainbow” is its soundtrack. By seeing the trailer, a person can easily get a sense as to what Jeremy Schmidt, of Sinoia Caves, is going for and it works about as perfectly as possible throughout the movie.
The soundtrack even has shades of Vangelis’ seminal score for Ridley Scott’s sci-fi classic “Blade Runner.” Creating a piece of work that sounds anywhere close to one of the most memorable sci-fi scores of all time is an incredible feat, and it’s done nicely here.
Driving isn’t necessarily an enjoyable experience, but the way it can be filmed has always been intriguing. Cosmatos’ includes a few driving scenes in tunnels, much like a brilliant scene in Andrei Tarkovskiy’s “Solaris.” There’s a calm sense to them that’s refreshing in comparison to the rest of the movie.
With a defined visual style, strong lead performance, gorgeous cinematography and a brilliant soundtrack, “Beyond the Black Rainbow” succeeds in almost all of the technical aspects.
Much like Disney’s “TRON: Legacy,” its plot falls short of everything else its offering and holds it back from being a new sci-fi staple. If anything, “Beyond the Black Rainbow” has the ability to become a cult classic.
3 out of 5 Stars