“Beyond the Black Rainbow” Review

jason December 14, 2012 4
“Beyond the Black Rainbow” Review

Writer/Director: Panos Cosmatos

Stars: Eva AllanMichael Rogers and Scott Hylands 

Once in a while you should watch a movie that makes you ask “what the fuck am I watching?” If you think it’s a good time to test the tensile strength of your imagination, I’d suggest the tri-parented offspring of “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “THX – 1138,” and “Eraserhead” – “Beyond the Black Rainbow.”

“Beyond the Dark Rainbow” takes place in the ambiguously existing Arboria Institute in 1983. The movie starts with a commercial for the institute, which promises a new way of thinking that will bring clarity and peace to your life. Plus, they have a really nice garden. In reality though, it’s a fairly barren research facility that worships a glowing diamond thing and contains a handful of mutant robots (maybe). Their patient is a girl named Elena (Eva Allan) and she’s not really so much a patient as she is captive and heavily sedated most of the time. Dr. Barry Nyle (Michael Rogers) clearly antagonizes Elena and seemingly enjoys using his ‘therapy’ to induce crying.

Elena eventually gets over her numb stupor and escapes (with a bit of help from Barry). Then the diamond thing ejects smoke rings and glows some more, Barry’s head spontaneously combusts from a flashback, and a few seven-foot-tall mutant robots show up. As it turns out, Barry and Elena were actually engineered by a scientific cult. Elena is probably closer to what they were trying to produce, as she seems to have psychic abilities, while Barry is just insane.

“Beyond the Black Rainbow” is a testament to the artistic “how” of filmmaking. It’s a slow-burning, acid trip of a movie. Colors are saturated, crossfades last entire scenes, and the score is ambient and electronic. This film will test your patience. Entire scenes go by without dialog, or even movement. Characters will just stare into space for reasons beyond my understanding (and possibly that black rainbow). The whole movie moves at an unpredictably brooding pace. I had trouble not looking away to my iPhone, but that never deterred my enjoyment of the film. You burn calories just attempting to keep your focus. At least I believe I did – you might not, especially if you liked “Valhalla Rising,” “Drive,” “Satyricon,” “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “Stalker,” “Solaris” (either of them), and possibly “House of 1000 Corpses.”

Here’s the thing about this movie: I can’t critique it. It was exactly what it was supposed to be. There wasn’t any apparent compromises (though I’m sure there were). So in the sense of “Beyond the Black Rainbow’s” potential, it’s perfect. There wasn’t a shot, sound, set, performance, or costume that failed to flatter the movie’s motif. In that sense, great job to director Panos Cosmatos in consistently executing your vision. Even though the details of the story seemed random and obscure, everything made sense in the big picture.

So, if it’s perfect, is it my favorite movie of the year, or possibly ever? No, not really. I admire its ambition and execution, but my potential pool of enjoyment for this movie only ran so deep. It you were to re-read this review, it’s really more a critique on myself than the movie. I guess that’s one of the best compliments a movie can get.


    • Apparently this movie takes place in 1983 because the director thought it would be funny to be a year before 1984.
    • There’s a poster for this movie on Wikipedia with a vintage and folded look. The same poster is all over the Internet without the warped and folded style. So is that folded poster intentional? Because I like that one more. Or did some ass hat at Wikipedia use a folded poster as a reference?
  • I can’t find the soundtrack to this movie. I would buy it.


  1. Julio April 21, 2013 at 11:23 am - Reply

    Hello! I’m here to say I loved your review… even if it wasn’t much of a actual review.

    By the way the soundtrack, turns out it was never released, so, boo-hoo for us.

    • jason May 11, 2013 at 12:05 am - Reply

      Thank you . I recommend some “Kuedo” if you enjoyed this soundtrack. Or Com Truise. Either way, they’re 80’s and trippy.

  2. Beyond the black rainbow - review April 28, 2013 at 12:09 am - Reply

    My interpretation: The whole goal of Arboria was to realize some sort of transcendence using hallucinogens and new age religious rituals (pretty boilerplate 1960’s stuff). When that didn’t work, Mercurio kept the drugs and hocus pocus but also threw human experimentation into the mix.
    Basically Murcurio is equal parts Dr. Mengele, Timothy Leary and L. Ron Hubbard.
    Everything we see in the film is shown to us through the filter of Barry Nyle’s LSD soaked brain. All of the bizarro nonsensical imagery is nonsensical because it is being created by Barry’s imagination. It is left up to the viewer to speculate on what is real and what is a hallucination.
    The clue you are given is the creepy baby-faced android is revealed in the final shot of the film to be just a plastic action figure.
    In Summary: Arboria was a real* place and Barry, Mercurio and Elena were real* people, but it is very likely that the entire sci-fi component of the film is just a bad trip.

  3. John June 26, 2013 at 12:58 pm - Reply

    I watched it, and thought it was an absolute waste of time. I’d rather look at a piece of classical than abstract art. What we had here was an abstract movie. Like abstract art, it bored me shitless and I could wait to get out of the gallery.

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