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]
Mongrel Media
Release date
Running time
110 minutes
Country Canada
Language English
Budget $1.1 million[2]
Box office $56,491 (US)[2]

Beyond the Black Rainbow is a 2010 Canadian science fiction-horror 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, picked up the film for US theatrical release.[1]

Summary[edit]

A sedated woman attempts to escape from a secluded commune where she's been held captive. [6]

Cast[edit]

  • Michael Rogers as Barry Nyle, the Head of Research of the Arboria Institute. He goes insane after a psychic experience in 1966.
  • Eva Bourne as Elena, the daughter of Anna and Mercurio Arboria. Due to the experiments at the Arboria Institute (where she is 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 bioform 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 child, Cosmatos frequented a video store named Video Addict. During these trips he would browse the horror film section looking at the boxes although he was not allowed to watch such films. During such times he would instead imagine what the film 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 story 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 film's genesis was an overlap between two projects Cosmatos wanted to do. One of these was a film 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.[7]

The presence of his parents haunts "every frame of this film",[8] said the Rome-born filmmaker.[9] His father was film director George P. Cosmatos (whose credits include Rambo: First Blood Part II and Cobra), deceased in April 2005,[10] and his mother Swedish sculptor Birgitta Ljungberg-Cosmatos,[8] who died in July 1997 after a lengthy battle with cancer.[11] 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 film as part of the healing process.[12] 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.[13] The film 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."[14]

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).[15] 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).[9] Norm Li cited other references: Daft Punk's Electroma (2006), Dario Argento's Suspiria (1977), and George Lucas' THX 1138 (1971).[14] A number of reviewers noted similarities between the film and Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and A Clockwork Orange (1971).[16] "I love Stanley Kubrick, and have seen, and probably internalized, all of his work, but any similarity was not my intent", explained Cosmatos.[17] Critics have also compared Beyond the Black Rainbow to Andrei Tarkovsky's Solaris (1972),[18][19][20] Ken Russell's Altered States (1980),[21][22] and Gaspar Noé's Enter the Void (2010).[22] 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 by 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 Nyle'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).[23]

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.[14]

Pacing[edit]

One of Beyond the Black Rainbow's notable characteristics is its deliberately slow, hypnotic pace. According to Cosmatos, Beyond the Black Rainbow belongs to what he dubbed the "trance film" subgenre.[23] 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.[24][25] Cosmatos explained the rationale behind his screen-writing, which downplays the "very concrete story at the heart of it" in favor of an "atmospheric" approach:

I decided to just write as straightforward as possible, then let the visuals and the look of the film bloom around something that was pretty straightforward. At the end of the day, I decided to bring down the story elements to allow the visual and the story elements to come more into the foreground, to make it more dream-like and less story-driven.[25]

Music[edit]

Jeremy Schmidt, keyboard player for Vancouver-based rockers Black Mountain, was invited by Cosmatos to compose the film'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 Midnight Express (1978) and American Gigolo (1980) cemented their bond.[26] 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.[27]

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.[28] Their music had already been featured the sci-fi and horror genres, two of Cosmatos main cinematic obsessions when young.[13] Ligeti pieces "Lux Aeterna" and "Atmosphères" had been featured in 2001: A Space Odyssey,[29] and Penderecki's "Polymorphia" and a portion of "The Devils of Loudun" was used in The Exorcist (1973).[30]

For his analogue synthesizer 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.[28] All in all, "the chosen palette of sounds definitely harkens back to 'The New Age of Enlightenment'", said Schmidt.[27] The music was mixed by Joshua Stevenson at Otic Sound, Vancouver, British Columbia, 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 focused on issues of repression and control of emotions.[31] 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. Nyle character, someone "very knowledged, trying to create a very controlled environment to give himself a feeling of power."[24] The light triangle, responsible for dampening Elena's psychic powers, is another control symbol.[32] 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[14] – 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.[33][34] The visual reference for Arboria Institute's interior design was THX 1138.[23]

The film'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".[17] Its paranoid, Cold War mood contains nods to the late U.S. president – through a clip of an ominous televised speech by Ronald Reagan himself – and former Panamenian general and convicted drug lord Manuel Noriega (Dr. Nyle's "Noriega" jacket).[35][36] 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.[37]

Identity[edit]

Another of Beyond the Black Rainbows main themes is identity.[24] Over the course of the movie Dr. Nyle experiences a radical change of personality whose roots lie in the terrifying drug experience he had in 1966, 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.[38] Similar to many a Lovecraftian protagonist, Barry Nyle 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.[39]

Boomer criticism[edit]

Cosmatos admits a dislike for Baby Boomers' spiritual ideals, an issue he addresses in Beyond the Black Rainbow.[40] For him, the Boomers' search for alternative belief systems made them dabble in the dark side of occultism, which in turn corrupted their quest for spiritual enlightenment.[15] The use of psychedelic drugs for mind-expansion purposes is also explored,[41] 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.[42] UGO Networks'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"[22] – in this case, Elena. Cosmatos explains why Dr. Arboria's mission to create a superior human ultimately failed:

I look at Arboria as kind of naïve. He had the best of intentions of wanting to expand human consciousness, but I think his ego got in the way of that and ultimately it turned into a poisonous, destructive thing. Because Arboria is trying to control consciousness and control the mind. There is a moment of truth in the film where the whole thing starts to disintegrate because it stops being about their humanity and becomes about an unattainable goal. That is the "Black Rainbow": trying to achieve some kind of unattainable state that is ultimately, probably destructive.[43]

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.[23]

The film has an approval rating of 52% on Rotten Tomatoes based on twenty-eight reviews and an average score of 5.7/10.[44] Negative reviews focused generally on the surreal inscrutability of the plot and accusations of shallow pastiche; Tony Norman of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette called it "all ambiance and no substance",[45] and Joe Neumaier of The New York Daily News called it a boring failure.[46] 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.[47] 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",[48] while Marjorie Baumgarten of the Austin Chronicle cited the movie as inexplicable and incomprehensible, while praising the visuals.[49] Jeannette Catsoulis of The New York Times also gave a mixed review, highlighting the appeal to fans of midnight movies.[50]

Positive reviews highlighted the cult appeal, such as Matt Singer of Time Out, who welcomed the return of challenging, surreal midnight movies.[51] Alison Willmore of The A.V. Club rated it B+, praising its style and daring form.[52] 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."[53]

During the second half of the 2010s, however, Beyond the Black Rainbow has garnered spots on various best-of lists of professional reviewers - #27 on "The Playlist"'s 2016 The 50 Best Sci-Fi Films Of The 21st Century So Far,[54] #20 on "The Film Stage"'s 2016 The 50 Best Sci-Fi Films of the 21st Century Thus Far,[55] #19 on "Fandor"'s 2016 Best Science Fiction of the Century (so far),[56] and #1 on "Taste of Cinema"'s 2017 10 totally awesome Sci-Fi movies from the 2010s (so far).[57]

References[edit]

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  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. Archived from the original on February 8, 2012. Retrieved August 4, 2011. 
  5. ^ "Beyond the Black Rainbow". 2011 Fantasia International Film Festival Film Guide. Retrieved August 4, 2011. 
  6. ^ Moviefone
  7. ^ Brown, Phi (June 6, 2012). "Interview:Beyond The Black Rainbow Director Panos Cosmatos". Dork Shelf. Retrieved November 5, 2012. 
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  9. ^ a b Miller, Josua (June 18, 2012). "Interview: Panos Cosmatos (Beyond the Black Rainbow)". CHUD.com. Retrieved December 12, 2012. 
  10. ^ Oliver, Myrna (April 27, 2005). "George P. Cosmatos, 64; Director Was Known for Saving Troubled Projects". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 15, 2013. 
  11. ^ Variety Staff (July 21, 1997). "Birgitta Ljungberg Cosmatos". Variety. Retrieved May 15, 2013. 
  12. ^ 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. 
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  17. ^ a b Ackerman, Emily (May 10, 2012). "A Trippy, Dystopian Futurescape". TribecaFilm.com. Retrieved December 13, 2012. 
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  27. ^ a b Janisse, Kier-La (September 1, 2011). "Wasn't the Future Wonderful?". Spectacular Optical. Retrieved December 12, 2012. 
  28. ^ 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. 
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  30. ^ Burlingame, Jon (1998). The Exorcist (CD booklet). Various Artists. Burbank, CA: Warner Bros. p. 6. 
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  33. ^ Lexicon, Herder. (2007). Dicionário de símbolos. São Paulo: Editora Cultrix.
  34. ^ Lurker, Manfred. (2003). Dicionário de simbologia. São Paulo: Martins Fontes.
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  37. ^ Murillo, Luis. (1995). The Noriega mess: the drugs, the canal, and why America invaded. Berkeley, CA: Video Books.
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  39. ^ Jones, Scott (March 12, 2013). "Far Voyages — Lovecraftian Themes in 'Beyond the Black Rainbow'". The Lovecraft eZine. Retrieved June 6, 2013. 
  40. ^ Beyond the Black Rainbow - Renegade Cut-YouTube
  41. ^ Marsh, James (September 25, 2011). "FANTASTIC FEST 2011: BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW Review". Film School Rejects. Retrieved April 14, 2013. 
  42. ^ 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. 
  43. ^ Reid, Joseph (May 12, 2011). "Panos Cosmatos "Beyond the Black Rainbow"". COOL -Creator's Infinite Links-. Retrieved April 14, 2013. 
  44. ^ "BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW Movie Reviews". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved March 16, 2015. 
  45. ^ Norman, Tony (June 15, 2012). "Movie review: Snoozer 'Beyond the Black Rainbow' is all ambience, no substance". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 15 May 2013. 
  46. ^ 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. 
  47. ^ Feeney, Mark (June 8, 2012). "Beyond the Black Rainbow". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 14 May 2013. 
  48. ^ Goss, William (Oct 5, 2011). "Fantastic Fest Reviews: 'Beyond the Black Rainbow' and 'Manborg'". MSN Movies. Archived from the original on 13 November 2012. Retrieved 9 May 2013. 
  49. ^ Baumgarten, Marjorie (June 8, 2012). "Beyond the Black Rainbow". Austin Chronicle. Retrieved 15 May 2013. 
  50. ^ Catsoulis, Jeannette (May 18, 2012). "Gloomy Clinic Where the Staff Behaves as Oddly as the Inmates". New York Times. Retrieved 15 May 2013. 
  51. ^ Singer, Matt (May 15, 2012). "Beyond the Black Rainbow (R)". Time Out. Retrieved 9 May 2013. 
  52. ^ Willmore, Alison (May 17, 2012). "Beyond the Black Rainbow". A.V. Club. Retrieved 14 May 2013. 
  53. ^ Lewis, Don R. (September 29, 2012). "Beyond the Black Rainbow". Film Threat. Retrieved 14 May 2013. 
  54. ^ Kiang, Jessica; Lyttelton, Oliver (2016). The 50 Best Sci-Fi Films Of The 21st Century So Far, theplaylist.net, July 19, 2016
  55. ^ (2016). The 50 Best Sci-Fi Films of the 21st Century Thus Far, The Film Stage, July 19, 2016
  56. ^ Prewitt, Zach (2016). Best Science Fiction of the Century (so far), fandor.com, April 21, 2016
  57. ^ Gray, Mike (2017). 10 Totally Awesome Sci-Fi Movies from the 2010s (So Far), Taste of Cinema, 13 March 2017

External links[edit]