Beyond the Black Rainbow Panos Cosmatos

Beyond the Black Rainbow Panos Cosmatos
There's no better way to fool undiscerning dilettantes into feeling a false sense of profundity than to assemble a bunch of pretentious twaddle, wrap it in nostalgia and then call it art. Comparisons to Stanley Kubrick, David Lynch or Andrey Tarkofskiy are off base in all but the most superficial of ways. Those auteurs employed expressionism in service of a rigorously considered purpose (even Lynch, though it's seldom certain whether he knows the specific meaning of that purpose). First-time director Panos Cosmatos deliberately puts together images and notions that give the impression of importance, but fail to convey anything of substance. Designed to look like a relic of the late '70s or early '80s, Beyond the Black Rainbow is ostensibly about a girl who desperately wants to escape the mysterious Arboria Institute, a treatment facility founded to realize the goal of pure happiness through self-actualization ― with the aid of strange drugs and arcane technology, of course. After a cheesy faux-promo video introducing the intended ideals of Arboria, Cosmatos drops us into his self-indulgent, dichromatic vision, a place where everything is lit in extreme contrast to reinforce base emotions and every scene is exhaustively exaggerated by painfully slow shots. As far as the tenuous narrative goes, a sinister scientist smugly blathers on about glib notions of self-identity (which were more coherently and robustly expressed in Ken Russell's similar-themed Altered States) to the imprisoned girl, while the specific way the experiment has been perverted is gradually revealed. If a filmmaker is going to be so demanding of an audience's attention span, and so reliant on oblique geometrics and obvious symbolism (reflective duality? Check! Death and rebirth through a vaginal void? Check!) there had better be a significant payoff. All Cosmatos manages to achieve is an oppressive sense of dread and alienation that's more tedious than frightening or absorbing, and even that is mostly thanks to a hypnotic synth score that unsettles due its engineered kinship with a bygone aesthetic more than nuanced compositional instincts. I'm sure there's an audience out there that'll find great significance in dry naval-gazing and art design that resembles a rejected concept for a Daft Punk music video, but for those of us who demand more than vaguely shaped mind-diarrhoea from an expressionist piece, Beyond the Black Rainbow is crushed under the weight of its pretension. Surely presuming that the film speaks for itself, there are no special features included with the DVD, so we'll never know if it was the director's intention to make the audience feel trapped by an experiment gone wrong. (Mongrel Media)