In a futuristic laboratory in the ominous Aboria Institute a creepy scientist watches over a vulnerable young girl with strange powers imprisoned by a peculiar triangle prism. Periodically he asks her strange psychological questions or sets up incomprehensible tests. Many strange things happen, but it’s difficult to determine what these are exactly.
The debut feature of Canadian director Panos Cosmatos is not about plot. It’s about mood. And that mood is dark. Strangely disconnected, with minimal, though stilted dialogue, the imagery is startling, an intoxicating almost overwhelming deluge of impossibly gorgeous yet troubling images. Light too plays a major role, with clinical blue white’, deep red pulses and dark black shadows. It’s a hallucinogenic fever dream, an almost overwhelming feast for the senses, particularly when coupled with the ominous oscillating synth pulses from Jeremy Schmidt, keyboardist of US space rockers Black Mountain. In fact his music is remarkable, a big bold old school analogue synth score, a not so subtle tip of the hat to the iconic film music from the late 70′ and early 80′, folks like Tangerine Dream, John Carpenter and even Klaus Schulze. It’s not such a surprise, given the strength of the score, and how prominent it is in the film, to hear that UK soundtrack fetishists Death Waltz are scheduling it for an upcoming vinyl release.
It’s ostensibly an art film, but it shares similar hallucinogenic qualities, surreal imagery and incomprehensible madness to the likes of Jodorowsky’ Holy Mountain, Lynch’ Eraserhead and other Midnight Movies that have transcended cinema and can now simply be considered pure multisensory experiences. Coupled with the incredible amount of pill popping, injections and drug fetishism, Beyond the Black Rainbow was always going to be a cult film. And it was very clearly designed to be. It’s a dark LSD trip that’s been spiked with ketamine, a beautiful lethargic slow moving dream for you to sink into and let it wash through you.
This is not a film you can connect with however. There’ a coldness here, characters are aloof, their actions nonsensical, guided by some kind of greater unseen power. If anything it’s an exercise in dark psychedelia and perhaps reminiscent of Solaris in it’s desire to remove the viewer from any notions of time. Once you surrender to the arty, somewhat pretentious world of Beyond The Black Rainbow, if you can forgive its surface intellectualism and just revel in its retro futuristic esoteric imagery, you can take it for what it is: Delirium put to celluloid.