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Marina Antunes [Film Festival 12.06.10] Canada movie review news scifi



Year: 2010
Director: Panos Cosmatos
Writer: Panos Cosmatos
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Marina Antunes
Rating: 9 out of 10

In 1966, Dr. Arboria conducted an experiment. The goal was to create a new version of the human being, one with a conscious connection to spirituality. His test subject, Barry Nyle, emerged from the test, an odd, drug induced trip, a changed man but not necessarily in the way Dr. Arboria intended. The mad Barry inpregnates a woman and Elena, the child of the union is born with telepathic abilities. Locked in the belly of the Arboria Institute from birth, Elena suffers through regular sessions with her therapist, the re-invented but still crazy Dr. Nyle, all the while, looking for a way to escape. Keeping her in check is a mysterious machine that spawns into action each time Elena uses her powers. The machine debilitates and sedates her for a short period of time but its not really clear who or what controls it.

When Nyle pays a visit to the nearly dead, drug addicted Dr. Arboria, things take a turn for the worse. Nyle completely abandons his facade of good doctor for that of crazed and creepy stalker in search of Elena who has made her escape while Nyle is busy with Dr. Arboria.


I can't, with just one viewing, truly make sense of everything that director Panos Cosmatos presents in Beyond the Black Rainbow but the truth can't be denied: his feature film debut is one of the most exciting the sci-fi genre has seen in years. Borrowing heavily from the look and feel of 70s and 80s sci-fi and paying homage to everything from Cronenberg's The Brood to George Lucas' THX 1138, Cosmatos presents a trippy, awe inspiring vision that made my head spin. While some try to “re-invision” 80s classics, Cosmatos has chosen instead to make a film that feels authentic to the era, complete with a hypnotic synth score, timeless set design, heavily stylized visuals and a handful of the creepiest images caught on film this year, some of which seem lifted from a drug induced dream.

Cosmatos' vision is brought to life by Michael Rogers in the role of Nyle and new comer Eva Allan as Elena. Rogers gives himself fully to the role and breathes creepy life into Dr. Nyle while later transforming himself into a nearly unrecognizable deranged hunter. Allan has the difficult task of developing a character we care for while never uttering a single line of dialogue (outside of a garbled sentence she mentally forces onto Dr. Nyle). Allan emotes brilliantly – it's only a matter of time before we see what she's capable of with a speaking role.

It would be easy to brush away Cosmatos' film as a tribute to a time past and an all looks no substance sci-fi thriller but I love that Cosmatos challenges the audience by throwing out ideas, often with little explanation, while also playing with different stylistic approaches within the film. Beyond the Black Rainbow isn't all an Argento inspired palette of classic sci-fi. In a flashback sequence, Cosmatos opts for a blown out black and white approach which gives the sequence a twisted horror film feel almost as if it's too brutal to show and only appropriate to see in shadows. It's a gutsy move and one that works to great effect.

Beyond the Black Rainbow is a melting pot of thoughts and visuals, a mix of sci-fi and horror; a film that is guaranteed to be a cult classic, a hit with the midnight crowds and a must see for anyone interested in a film experience. With his debut, Cosmatos shows great promise as a visionary director, one who is ripe to breathe some new life into the sci-fi genre.


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George (7 years ago) Reply

I can't disagree with you more, Marina. I thought the film was a glorified art school project without a story, any character development, a sense of pacing, and a proper post process of color timing, editing and sound editing.

To put it bluntly, it was the most pretentious piece of filmmaking that was made to serve Panos' ego alone. I looked around the audience at the Whistler film festival and more than a dozen people were sleeping. We had a flashback sequence (the black and white one you speak of) that lasted over 10 minutes of BS that did nothing to drive the story forward.

On the plus side, I do give props to the filmmaker for making something so bold. True, it was the poster and trailer that made we want to go see the film but I was disappointed with the outcome and it was one of the first times i've ever wanted to 'boo' in a theatre after a film. Why did I pay $13 to see a short film lengthened out by 8000%? And don't get me wrong. I like slow paced movies, but you have to tell a STORY. Jim Jarmusch's DEAD MAN was extremely slow paced but it had me because Johnny Depp's character had meaning and development, he didn't flatline like Corman's and Allen's character did.

Panos may be a visionary director, but was it the Cinematographer Norm Li that we should credit this to? I'd rather critique his work based on what kind of performance he can pull out of the actors, the pacing in his cutting and driving the story forward with his script, none of which this movie had any direction for.

Oh and don't get me started about the ending. Really? You end it like that? REALLY? Half. Ass. Lame.

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Chuck Patton (7 years ago) Reply

Panos Cosmatos? Any relation to the late director George Pan Cosmatos of Tombstone, Rambo 2 fame?

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Debbie (7 years ago) Reply

Yup. Panos is his son.

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Rob Evens (7 years ago) Reply

I just saw this at the Whistler Film Festival, it was more like a student film with a sizable budget. Who invested in this? The director himself? I barely made it to the credits. Movies need to have a clear beginning, middle, and end. This is why 80% of festival films never make it out of the circuit. These "filmmakers" are choosing style over substance.

The cinematography on the other hand, was amazing. So good on whoever shot it, but the direction in regards to the story was awful. Story first, everything else second.

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wowgold (7 years ago) Reply

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Vince (7 years ago) Reply

Panos Cosmatos lived on a roof,
Drinking in Oak Bay is what he would so.
Imbibe till he pass out
Thats whats goin on man.

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spacecowboynj (7 years ago) Reply

Panos: Hands of Fate

I have not seen this film I just wanted to say that. I think like most here the draw is that this is Sherman setting the Wayback Machine to 80's VHS schlock video. Remember when you could go into a convenience store or (before the rise of Blockbuster) privately owned video shops and rent VHS ("vitch") movies you had never heard of with strange box art? This is probably that movie I just hope it's not as pretentious as the first poster says - although it probably is. Empty trippy visuals = "Enter the Void" = a movie you wouldn't wish a second viewing of on your worst enemy.

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imnotcocteau (7 years ago) Reply

One or the worst film experiences I have had in nearly over decade. Decidely on par with "You, Me and Dupre" as an ultimate time waster and brain soggerizer.

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siva (7 years ago) Reply

mmmm...though it may be self indulgent, i don't agree that its a "student project" because it "doesn't tell a story" with "a beginning, middle, and end." What year is this? 1911 instead of 2011? Did you just screaming out of the "rite of spring" because it was too experimental for you? What kind of idiot needs a beginning, middle, and end in the story? Is storytelling in filmmaking that far behind storytelling in fiction? C'mon man, don't be so lame.

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Michael Allen (5 years ago) Reply

I agree with Siva. You need to step out of your box a little. Not all movies focus primarily on storytelling. Some are experimental. To create something different is often riskier than following certain supposed criteria for filmmaking.

I do have to say, after watching this film, that I understand why some would not like this. It is not formulaic. And, style alone does not really make a movie. But, I still found it evocative. Although, the weak story did not really draw me in. The film explores the surreal for what reason I don't know. I still think it is worth seeing for a select few, who like films off of center.

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siva (7 years ago) Reply

mmmm...though it may be self indulgent, I don't agree that its a "student project" because it "doesn't tell a story" with "a beginning, middle, and end." What year is this? 1911 instead of 2011? Did you just come screaming out of the "rite of spring" because it was too experimental for you? What kind of idiot needs a beginning, middle, and end in the story? Is storytelling in filmmaking that far behind storytelling in fiction? C'mon man, don't be so lame.

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Shadx (6 years ago) Reply

Oh no, more than a dozen people were sleeping? It must be a bad film. Just like millions of people pay for crappy music; well then it must be good. Did expectations from the poster play a large part to these negative reactions? Nonetheless, it's disappointing to have a limited view of what a film should be. I hope my expectations aren't too high.

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Pleebs (5 years ago) Reply

I personally feel that anyone saying this is a "student film" or just Cosmatos stroking his artistic ego is an ignorant fuck. This film was an experience. Have any of you seen The Fountain? Enter The Void? Rubber? Pi? A movie doesn't have to be a precariously set up timeline with an obvious plot to cater to people who can't grasp someone stepping outside of the box. This film is so full to the brim with beautiful imagery and powerful shots that if you cant piece together the already pretty substantial storyline that our reviewer here nailed in my opinion, then this just isn't the kind f film making for you. That doesn't mean it's bad, it means you like traditional movies that spoon feed you a plot and this is the kind of film that like to take the spoon of a plot and splatter it all over the wall and tells you to eat it up. You can make this movie into what you want because of how minimal it is, while still having mind-fuck scenes that never get explained (elevator/hallway people). But the thing is, we know where this takes place, what kind of things they say they do, we get this huge backdrop from the informational style clip at the beginning for Arboria place. And it's further confirmed in the scenes with docter Arboria that behind the slick 80's sci-fi atmosphere of the facility, it was started in the 60's by what appeared to be some fucked up hippy-sorts that used a lot of fucked up methods to conduct experiments, which brings us back to those mind-fuck unexplained scenes... they don't need any explanation because the rich backstory that you guys didn't pick up on leaves so many possibilities open. We only get a tasteof Elana, what about the other "patients" of Arboria? I assume that the Hallway Guy was one of them. This is the kind of movie that even after it's finished, you want to go back in your ind and explore the Arboria facility, you want to find out why things happened the way they did.
but we can't, and thats the magic of the movie, I've been mulling it over in my head for days since i saw it and i hope i do for a few more days.

bottom line, im not trying to be pretentious or rude, it's the cold truth though that this is a fucking GREAT movie and it's a shame so many people who can't appreciate an artistically driven film had to see it.

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Greystryke (5 years ago) Reply

I see a few people above calling this a student film. @those people....the fact that you see it that way is more of an indication that you are, in fact, still just a student. There is a very clear structure to this film. The beginning leads us to the female employee discovering the journal, which is what motivates the story from the stalemate between Elena and Nyle that the film begins with. This plot element begins a chain of events that lead to Elena's escape attempt. The middle portion ends when Elena escapes, and the end sequence consists of Dr. Nyles stalking Elena outside of the institute. We don't need Elena to speak in order to know where she came from or why she is there, the narrative answers those questions on its own, as it does with most of the questions this story raises. The pyramid and the pool that Nyles lowers himself into do not need to be explained, only taken for what they appear to do within the context of the film. I see alot of otherwise intelligent people commenting, so it's too bad that you didn't like this film. The mistake is that your dislike for the film doesnt change the fact that Cosmatos does in fact include all of story elements you claim the story lacks. This is shoddy review work for that reason.


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