Beyond the Black Rainbow

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Beyond the Black Rainbow
Beyond the Black Rainbow poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Panos Cosmatos
Produced by Oliver Linsley
Christya Nordstokke
Written by Panos Cosmatos
Starring Michael Rogers
Eva Allan
Scott Hylands
Marilyn Norry
Rondel Reynoldson
Music by Sinoia Caves
Cinematography Norm Li
Edited by Nicholas T. Shepard
Production
company
Chromewood Productions
Distributed by Magnet Releasing[1]
Release dates
Running time 110 minutes
Country Canada
Language English
Budget $1,100,000[2]
Box office $56,491 (US)[2]

Beyond the Black Rainbow is a 2010 Canadian science fiction film written and directed by Panos Cosmatos, his feature film debut. The film stars Michael Rogers as "Dr. Barry Nyle". It was produced and filmed in Vancouver, and premiered at the 2010 Whistler Film Festival.[3] It also showed at several film festivals throughout 2011, including Tribeca in New York City[4] and Fantasia in Montreal.[5] Magnet Releasing, the genre division of Magnolia Pictures, has picked up the film for US theatrical release.[1]

Plot[edit]

Elena (Eva Allen) at the first therapy session inside the Arboria Institute.

In the 1960s, Dr. Arboria founds the Arboria Institute, a New Age research facility dedicated to finding a reconciliation between science and spirituality, allowing human beings to move into a new age of perpetual happiness. In the 1980s, Arboria's work has been taken over by his protégé, Dr. Barry Nyle (Michael Rogers). Outwardly a charming, handsome scientist, Nyle is in fact a psychopath who has been keeping Elena (Eva Allan), a teenage girl, captive in an elaborate prison/hospital beneath the Institute. Elena demonstrates psychic capabilities, which Nyle can suppress, using a glowing, prism-like device.

In an effort to understand Elena's abilities, Nyle subjects her to daily therapy sessions, which take the form of interrogations, during which Elena only communicates by way of telepathic demands to see her father. By night, Elena is kept in a brightly lit, completely white room, with only a television for companionship. Nyle spends his own nights at home with his wife, a docile, servile woman who gives Nyle endless praise and exists in a state of constant stupor. Nyle takes massive quantities of prescription medication and disguises his lack of hair and the color of his irises by way of elaborate wigs and contact lenses.

Attempting to elicit an emotional response from Elena, Nyle presents her with a photograph of her deceased mother. Nyle then informs Elena's nurse, Margo, that Elena has somehow smuggled contraband into her room. When Margo attempts to forcibly take the photo from Elena, Elena kills her, by causing her head to explode. Nyle, monitoring Elena's actions, is intrigued by this blatant display of psychic ability. He allows Elena out of her cell, then activates the prism, causing her to convulse and pass out. While unconscious, Elena is approached by a massive, androgynous being in a red space suit (identified in the credits as "Sentionaut"), who injects her with a syringe before wandering off.

Nyle goes to see Dr. Arboria, now aged, somewhere on the grounds of the Institute. Displaying signs of senility, Arboria remains either ignorant or indifferent of Nyle's psychosis, regarding him as his best protégé. A flashback to the 1960s reveals that Elena's mother was Dr. Arboria's wife, who was present when Arboria himself led a young Nyle through a procedure meant to allow him to achieve transcendence. As a part of the procedure, Nyle was submerged in a vat of black liquid, providing him with hellish, otherworldly visions; Nyle emerged from the vat insane, fatally attacking Mrs. Arboria. A nonplussed Dr. Arboria is shown submerging the infant Elena in the black liquid. Back in the present, Nyle kills Arboria by administering a drug overdose. Meanwhile, Elena makes her torturous escape from the Aboria Institute, encountering a zombie-like "mutant" that attacks her in an air shaft as well as an entire room full of Sentionauts, who are suspended immobile in a large, factory-like chamber.

During Elena's escape, Nyle returns home and presents himself to his wife without his wig or contacts before killing her with a ceremonial dagger he calls "The Devil's Teardrop." Nyle, having dissolved his final contact to the material world, heads out in pursuit of Elena. While chasing her through the woods surrounding the Institute, he encounters a pair of "heshers", whom he kills with the Devil's Teardrop after insisting that they had sex with Elena.

Nyle eventually corners Elena in a clearing, where she uses her psychic powers to fatally fling his head onto a rock. Free of her captor, Elena follows the light generated by a television set to a nearby town. Following the credits, the camera focuses on the floor of a living room with late 1970s/early 1980s decor; an action figure of a Sentionaut lies in the middle of the room. A static voice can be heard asking, "Do you read me?" twice before the film ends.

Cast[edit]

The Sentionaut is activated
  • Michael Rogers as Barry Nyle, the Head of Research of the Arboria Institute. He goes insane after a psychic experience in 1966.
  • Eva Allan as Elena, the daughter of Anna and Mercurio Arboria. Due the experiments an the Arboria Institute, where she kept in isolation, she gains psychic powers.
  • Scott Hylands as Mercurio Arboria, a reclusive new age spiritual leader who founds the Arboria Institute in order to help people find spiritual happiness and transcendence.
  • Marilyn Norry as Rosemary Nyle, Barry's docile wife.
  • Rondel Reynoldson as Margo, a nurse who lacks empathy.
  • Sara Stockstad as Anna Arboria, the mother of Elena and wife of Mercurio. She is seen only in flashbacks and photographs.
  • Roy Campsall as the Sentionaut, an artificial life form kept in storage at the Arboria Institute.

Development[edit]

The interior and exterior of the Bloedel Floral Conservatory was used numerous times in the film

As a kid Cosmatos used to frequent a video store entitled Video Addict. During these trips he would frequently browse the horror movie section looking at the boxes although he was not allowed to watch such movies. During such times he would instead imagine what the movie was. He would later reflect upon this experience when making Black Rainbow where one of his goals was "to create a film that is a sort of imagining of an old film that doesn’t exist." The year 1983 was chosen for the storyline as it's the first year he went to Video Addict. Additionally he thought the idea of setting such a film one year before 1984 was funny. The movie's genesis was an overlap between two projects Cosmatos wanted to do. One of these was a movie about a girl trapped in an asylum while the other was an installation promoting a research facility that didn't exist. Eventually Cosmatos realized that he could use both ideas in the same project.[6]

The presence of his parents haunts "every frame of this film",[7] said the Rome-born filmmaker.[8] His father was movie director George P. Cosmatos (whose credits include Rambo: First Blood Part II and Cobra), deceased in April 2005,[9] and his mother Swedish sculptor Birgitta Ljungberg-Cosmatos,[7] who died in July 1997 after a lengthy battle with cancer.[10] Unable to deal with his mother's death, Panos "drifted into a slow motion mode of self-destruction and binge drinking". When elder Cosmatos died, the grief he felt compounded. After that the aspiring writer/director started therapy and decided he wanted to make a movie as part of the healing process.[11] Cosmatos felt that his "filmmaking sensibility is a weird hybrid of both of them" - his father's "popcorn movies" and his mother's haunting, experimental art.[3]

Beyond the Black Rainbow was financed by DVD residuals from Tombstone (1993), directed by Panos' father.[12] The movie was shot in three weeks using a modified Panavision 35 mm camera.[3] This was suggested by cinematographer Norm Li, for he noted that Panos' references – mostly films from the '70s and '80s – "were all grainy, colorful, and full of texture", and he felt the 35 mm format was "the only way to shoot" BtBR.[13]

Style[edit]

Visuals[edit]

Beyond the Black Rainbow has been praised for its visual style. Cosmatos declared that his "modernist" use of color was influenced by Michael Mann's Manhunter (1986) and The Keep (1983).[14] The blue hue cinematography – the "night mode" as Cosmatos dubbed it – was inspired by the freezer room scene in John Carpenter's Dark Star (1974).[8] Norm Li cited other references: Daft Punk's Electroma (2006), Dario Argento's Suspiria (1977), and George Lucas' THX 1138 (1971).[13] A number of reviewers noted similarities between BtBR and Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and A Clockwork Orange (1971).[15] "I love Stanley Kubrick, and have seen, and probably internalized, all of his work, but any similarity was not my intent", explained Cosmatos.[16] Critics have also compared Beyond the Black Rainbow to Andrei Tarkovsky's Solaris (1972),[17][18][19] Ken Russell's Altered States (1980),[20][21] and Gaspar Noé's Enter the Void (2010).[21] Of the latter, the director deemed it "a very interesting, very beautiful film."[3]

Barry Nyle descends into the black liquid as he starts his 1966 psychic journey.

The 1966 flashback segment of the movie was inspired E. Elias Merhige's experimental horror film Begotten (1990). Begotten was entirely shot in high contrast black and white, which for Cosmatos "was a perfect look for the flashback because I wanted it to feel like a fading and decayed artifact." The young Barry Niles's acid trip in that segment of Beyond the Black Rainbow was inspired by the "Battle of the Gods" sequence in Jean-Luc Godard's Contempt (1963).[22]

Cosmatos also takes influence from other visual media. The director declared his love for Heavy Metal magazine and the work of French comics artist Jean "Moebius" Giraud. Fantasy art was also an influence, especially Frank Frazetta's paintings.[3] Norm Li stated that both he and the director "also looked at abstract paintings, photographs, and architectural design books" for inspiration.[13]

Pacing[edit]

One of Beyond the Black Rainbow notable characteristics is its deliberately slow, hypnotic pace. According to Cosmatos, Beyond the Black Rainbow belongs to what he dubbed the "trance film" subgenre.[22] Cosmatos mentioned Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now (1979), Alain Resnais' Last Year at Marienbad (1961) and Saul Bass's Phase IV (1974) as cinematographic blueprints for his debut film.[23][24] Cosmatos explained the rationale behind his screenwriting, which downplays the "very concrete story at the heart of it" in favor of an "atmospheric" approach:

Music[edit]

Jeremy Schmidt, keyboard player for Vancouver-based rockers Black Mountain, was invited by Cosmatos to compose the movie's soundtrack. "Evil Ball", a track from Schmidt's solo project, Sinoia Caves, was used by the movie's director on a private screening held for Schmidt. A mutual appreciation for Tangerine Dream, John Carpenter soundtracks and Giorgio Moroder's music for American Gigolo (1980) cemented their bond.[25] Schmidt also pointed out the background music from The Shining (1980) and Risky Business (1983) as musical blueprints for the Beyond the Black Rainbow score.[26]

Regarding the impact of The Shining's soundtrack on his score, Schmidt singled out the compositions by György Ligeti and Krzysztof Penderecki as sonic touchstones.[27] Their music had already been featured the sci-fi and horror genres, two of Cosmatos main cinematic obsessions when young.[12] Ligeti pieces "Lux Aeterna" and "Atmosphères" had been featured in 2001: A Space Odyssey,[28] and Penderecki's "Polymorphia" and a portion of "The Devils of Loudun" was used in The Exorcist (1973).[29]

For his analog synth score, Schmidt used the following equipment: a Prophet 5, two Oberheims, Moog Taurus bass pedals, a Korg CX-3 organ and a Mellotron. An extensive use of the Mellotron can be heard on the "flashback" sequence, where Cosmatos had been using Pink Floyd's "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun" as a temp track.[27] All in all, "the chosen palette of sounds definitely harkens back to 'The New Age of Enlightenment'", said Schmidt.[26] The music was mixed by Joshua Stevenson at Otic Sound, Vancouver, Canada.

Themes[edit]

Control[edit]

Director Cosmatos stated that he's interested in social control mechanisms, our own personal, internal controls and how religion affects our consciousness and society.[3] These philosophical ideas are present in Beyond the Black Rainbow, a film centered on issues of repression and control of emotions.[30] Cosmatos partly picked up these themes by reading the science fiction works of Beat novelist William S. Burroughs, books by and large dealing with societal control.[3]

According to Cosmatos, the "rigid geometric world" of the Arboria Institute visually fits the movie's control theme. This is especially true for the Dr. Nyles character, someone "very knowledged, trying to create a very controlled environment to give himself a feeling of power."[23] The light triangle, responsible for dampening Elena's psychic powers, is another control symbol.[31] The Institute's plethora of reflecting surfaces – the walls in the hallways, the giant piece of glass in the therapy room, the infinity-mirrored Sentionaut room, Margo's glasses[13] – might somewhat hint at this idea. To many ancient cultures, the mirror was a symbol of self-awareness, consciousness and intelligence, but also a source of pride and vanity.[32][33] The visual reference for Arboria Institute's indoor design was THX 1138.[22]

The movie's control leitmotif is shown in a subtler way by reflecting North America's political climate in the 1980s. Beyond the Black Rainbow has been called a "Reagan-era fever dream".[16] Its paranoid, Cold War mood contains nods to the late US president – through clips of ominous televised speeches by Ronald Reagan himself – and former Panamenian general and convicted drug lord Manuel Noriega (Dr. Nyles's "Noriega" jacket).[34][35] The South American dictator had direct involvement in the "Iran-Contra" scandal. Noriega's fight against the Sandinistas, Nicaragua's left-wing guerrillas, was backed up by the CIA and the Pentagon. The CIA funded Noriega's military campaign with profits from the illegal sale of arms to Iran. The CIA also turned a blind eye to Noriega's drug trafficking.[36]

Identity[edit]

Another of Beyond the Black Rainbows main themes is identity.[23] In the course of the movie Dr. Nyles experiences a radical change of personality whose roots lie in the terrifying drug experience he had in the 1960s, under Mercurio Arboria's supervision. Being exposed to his shadow side so intensely crippled not only his mind, but his body: Barry is forced to use appliances such as a wig and contact lenses.[37] Similar to many a Lovecraftian protagonist, Barry Nyles is ultimately a pathetic character: his far-reaching knowledge, restrained demeanor and carefully controlled work environment are unable to dominate the forces of irrationality and chaos burning in his mind. In the end, the doctor undergoes a physical and psychological transformation where he forfeits all control and gives in to madness.[38]

Boomer criticism[edit]

Cosmatos admits a dislike for Baby Boomer's spiritual ideals, an issue he addresses in Beyond the Black Rainbow. For him, the Boomer's search for alternative belief systems made them dabble in the dark side of occultism, which in turn corrupted their quest for spiritual enlightenment.[14] The use of psychedelic drugs for mind-expansion purposes is also explored,[39] although Cosmatos's take on it is "dark and disturbing", a "brand of psychedelia that stands in direct opposition to the flower child, magic mushroom peace trip" wrote a reviewer.[40] UGO's Jordan Hoffman noted both elements, stating in his review that in the movie some "up-to-no-good new age scientists have let their experiments with consciousness-altering drugs mutate a young woman"[21] – in this case, Elena. Cosmatos explains why Dr. Arboria's mission to create a superior human being ultimately failed:

Reception[edit]

Cosmatos noted that critical reception of the film was originally "kind of muted, even downright negative" at first, but it began picking up better reviews after Tribeca 2011.[22]

Currently, the film has a rating of 46% on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 23 reviews and an average score of 5.4/10.[42] Negative reviews focused generally on the surreal inscrutability of the plot and accusations of shallow pastiche, with Tony Norman of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette calling it "all ambiance and no substance"[43] and Joe Neumaier of The New York Daily News calling it a boring failure.[44] Mark Feeney of The Boston Globe cited the atmosphere as initially being impressive but eventually becoming laughable, with the concept better suited to a short film.[45] Some mixed reviews, like William Goss of MSN, praised the film's surreal atmosphere and synth score, despite finding it "not my cup of crazy",[46] while Marjorie Baumgarten of the Austin Chronicle cited the movie as inexplicable and incomprehensible, while praising the visuals.[47] Jeannette Catsoulis of the New York Times also gave a mixed review, highlighting the appeal to fans of midnight movies.[48]

Positive reviews highlighted the cult appeal, such as Matt Singer of Time Out, who welcomed the return of challenging, surreal midnight movies.[49] Alison Willmore of the A.V. Club rated it B+, praising its style and daring form.[50] Don R. Lewis of Film Threat also praised the film, saying, "As a cinema fan I was blown away at the control and attention to detail Cosmatos showed."[51] Samuel Zimmerman of Fangoria said the film "makes me lament that the general population of U.S. moviegoers isn't more adventurous", rating it 3 out of 4 stars.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Kay, Jeremy (May 18, 2011). "Beyond The Black Rainbow attracts Magnet for US". Screen Daily. Retrieved August 4, 2011. 
  2. ^ a b "Beyond the Black Rainbow". The Numbers. Retrieved August 15, 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Macaulay, Scott (May 16, 2012). "Panos Cosmatos, Beyond the Black Rainbow". Filmmaker. Retrieved December 23, 2012. 
  4. ^ "Beyond the Black Rainbow". 2011 Tribeca Film Festival Film Guide. Retrieved August 4, 2011. 
  5. ^ "Beyond the Black Rainbow". 2011 Fantasia International Film Festival Film Guide. Retrieved August 4, 2011. 
  6. ^ Brown, Phi (June 6, 2012). "Interview:Beyond The Black Rainbow Director Panos Cosmatos". Dork Shelf. Retrieved November 5, 2012. 
  7. ^ a b Wilkinson, Amber (May 11, 2011). "Retro Rainbow: Panos Cosmatos talks about the themes and influences of his sci-fi tale". Eye for Film. Retrieved May 8, 2013. 
  8. ^ a b Miller, Josua (June 18, 2012). "Interview: Panos Cosmatos (Beyond the Black Rainbow)". CHUD.com. Retrieved December 12, 2012. 
  9. ^ Oliver, Myrna (April 27, 2005). "George P. Cosmatos, 64; Director Was Known for Saving Troubled Projects". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 15, 2013. 
  10. ^ "Birgitta Ljungberg Cosmatos". Eye for Film. July 21, 1997. Retrieved May 15, 2013. 
  11. ^ Monk, Katherine (July 5, 2012). "For Vancouver filmmaker Panos Cosmatos, Beyond the Black Rainbow helped alleviate grief of losing parents". The Vancouver Sun. Retrieved May 16, 2013. 
  12. ^ a b Mack, Adrian (July 4, 2012). "Beyond the Black Rainbow director Panos Cosmatos brings a head trip to the big screen". Georgia Straight. Retrieved December 13, 2012. 
  13. ^ a b c d Macinnis, Allan (June 25, 2012). "Beyond the Black Rainbow: interview with Norm Li, csc". Alienated in Vancouver. Retrieved April 20, 2013. 
  14. ^ a b Nelson, Noah (November 15, 2011). "Journey 'Beyond the Black Rainbow' with director Panos Cosmatos". Turnstyle. Retrieved December 13, 2012. 
  15. ^ "Review – "Beyond the Black Rainbow"". From the Front Row. June 3, 2012. Retrieved December 13, 2012. 
  16. ^ a b Ackerman, Emily (May 10, 2012). "A Trippy, Dystopian Futurescape". TribecaFilm.com. Retrieved December 13, 2012. 
  17. ^ Anderson, Jason. "Analogue Dreams: Panos Cosmatos’ Beyond the Black Rainbow". cinema scope. Retrieved April 15, 2012. 
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  20. ^ Turek, Ryan (April 23, 2011). "Exclusive Tribeca 2011 Interview: Panos Cosmatos". Shock Till You Drop. Retrieved December 22, 2012. 
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  24. ^ a b Truax, Jackson (June 22, 2012). "Writer/Director Panos Cosmatos on his new film "Beyond the Black Rainbow"". Living in Cinema. Retrieved March 22, 2013. 
  25. ^ Mack, Adrian (July 4, 2012). "Sinoia Caves scores Beyond the Black Rainbow". Georgia Straight. Retrieved December 13, 2012. 
  26. ^ a b Janisse, Kier-La (September 1, 2011). "Wasn't the Future Wonderful?". Spectacular Optical. Retrieved December 12, 2012. 
  27. ^ a b Macinnis, Allan (July 4, 2012). "Beyond the Black Mountain: Jeremy Schmidt interview re: Sinoia Caves and Beyond the Black Rainbow". Alienated in Vancouver. Retrieved December 12, 2012. 
  28. ^ Cunbow, Robert (1996). 2001: A Space Odyssey (CD booklet). Various Artists. Los Angeles, CA: Rhino Movie Music. p. 19. 
  29. ^ Burlingame, Jon (1998). The Exorcist (CD booklet). Various Artists. Burbank, CA: Warner Bros. p. 6. 
  30. ^ Newman, Nick (June 25, 2012). "'Beyond the Black Rainbow' Director Panos Cosmatos Talks His Sci-Fi Indie, 'Prometheus,' 'The Shining' & More". The Film Stage. Retrieved May 2, 2013. 
  31. ^ Coleman, Jason (June 21, 2012). "Eva Allan On Being Sad & Silent For 'Beyond The Black Rainbow'". Starpulse.com. Retrieved May 5, 2013. 
  32. ^ Lexicon, Herder. (2007). Dicionário de símbolos. São Paulo: Editora Cultrix.
  33. ^ Lurker, Manfred. (2003). Dicionário de simbologia. São Paulo: Martins Fontes.
  34. ^ Lybarger, Dan (June 17, 2012). "Reel Reviews/June 2012". kc/active. Retrieved December 18, 2012. 
  35. ^ Klymkiw, Greg (October 4, 2012). "BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW: Cool Canadian Cult Picture on Blu-Ray from Mongrel Media". Klymkiw Film Corner. Retrieved December 17, 2012. 
  36. ^ Murillo, Luis. (1995). The Noriega mess: the drugs, the canal, and why America invaded. Berkeley, CA: Video Books.
  37. ^ Collars, Chuck. "Analysing a Movie ('Beyond the Black Rainbow')". Chuck Kollars' Personal Home Page. Retrieved June 15, 2013. 
  38. ^ Jones, Scott (March 12, 2013). "Far Voyages — Lovecraftian Themes in 'Beyond the Black Rainbow'". The Lovecraft eZine. Retrieved June 6, 2013. 
  39. ^ Marsh, James (September 25, 2011). "FANTASTIC FEST 2011: BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW Review". Film School Rejects. Retrieved April 14, 2013. 
  40. ^ Beggs, Scott (November 9, 2011). "Fantastic Review: ‘Beyond The Black Rainbow’ is the Best Example of Whatever The Hell It Is". twitch. Retrieved April 14, 2013. 
  41. ^ Reid, Joseph (May 12, 2011). "Panos Cosmatos "Beyond the Black Rainbow"". COOL -Creator's Infinite Links-. Retrieved April 14, 2013. 
  42. ^ "BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW Movie Reviews". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved December 23, 2012. 
  43. ^ Norman, Tony (June 15, 2012). "Movie review: Snoozer 'Beyond the Black Rainbow' is all ambience, no substance". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 15 May 2013. 
  44. ^ Neumaier, Joe (May 17, 2012). "'Beyond the Black Rainbow' is a misfire of retro rockets with '80s-style sci-fi". NY Daily News. Retrieved 15 May 2013. 
  45. ^ Feeney, Mark (June 8, 2012). "Beyond the Black Rainbow". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 14 May 2013. 
  46. ^ Goss, William (Oct 5, 2011). "Fantastic Fest Reviews: 'Beyond the Black Rainbow' and 'Manborg'". MSN Movies. Retrieved 9 May 2013. 
  47. ^ Baumgarten, Marjorie (June 8, 2012). "Beyond the Black Rainbow". Austin Chronicle. Retrieved 15 May 2013. 
  48. ^ Catsoulis, Jeannette (May 18, 2012). "Gloomy Clinic Where the Staff Behaves as Oddly as the Inmates". New York Times. Retrieved 15 May 2013. 
  49. ^ Singer, Matt (May 15, 2012). "Beyond the Black Rainbow (R)". Time Out. Retrieved 9 May 2013. 
  50. ^ Willmore, Alison (May 17, 2012). "Beyond the Black Rainbow". A.V. Club. Retrieved 14 May 2013. 
  51. ^ Lewis, Don R. (September 29, 2012). "Beyond the Black Rainbow". Film Threat. Retrieved 14 May 2013. 

External links[edit]