Beyond the Black Rainbow

Beyond the Black Rainbow.png
UK Release Date N/A
Director Panos Cosmatos
Starring Michael Rogers, Eva Bourne, Scott Hylands
Runtime 110 Minutes
Certificate 18
Reviewer Mark
Reviewed 16th April 2015

Welcome to the future. Welcome to 1983. Welcome to Beyond The Black Rainbow.

The digital year unfolds like the credits from Alien one number at a time, deliberate and sinister. Videotape is inserted, that plastic monolith capable of unlocking countless gateways to the stars and beyond. We’re soothed by the new age voice of Dr. Mercurio Arboria who invites us to find, “happiness, contentment and inner peace” through, “a practical application of an abstract ideal.” What’s this guy selling and why does it sound too good to be true? Surely we’re too intelligent to buy this L Ron Hubbard nonsense? Haven’t we seen enough bodies piled up in the Jonestown Massacre to know this is going to end badly?

Somehow the dream has died. Those sun bleached exteriors promising a natural existence now replaced by subterranean reds and asylum blues. Images shimmer, blur then fade. Dr. Barry Nyle makes himself comfortable against the futuristic precision, lines and squares seek perfection. Nyle is as perfectly formed as his surroundings, a laser straight haircut beamed from the future onto his scientific cranium-a sci-fi Chevy Chase. When Nyle interviews Elena he dampens her psychic abilities with a throbbing prism device secluded somewhere diabolical in the symmetrical bowels of The Arboria Institute. Elena doesn’t respond, she just cries. To Nyle this mental torture is, “the highlight of my day.”

What is he trying to gauge from his patient/prisoner-the key to happiness itself? Nyle taunts Elena; “It’s easy to become disillusioned when you don’t know who you are. What you are.” If Elena is the answer to what Nyle seeks then why doesn’t he supply her with the answers she so desperately needs? Or is, “happiness, contentment and inner peace” only possible though dominating another being, limiting their potential so that we can fully realise our own? Strangely though, Nyle not only represses Elena but also seems to constantly dampen his own desires over her not only with the prism but also through his own mechanical self-medication.

Why would Nyle in such a position of oppressive power limit his own ego? What is he afraid of? Deleuze and Guattari might have the answer in their book Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, “If desire is repressed, it is because every position of desire, no matter how small, is capable of calling into question the established order of a society: not that desire is asocial, on the contrary. But it is explosive; there is no desiring-machine capable of being assembled without demolishing entire social sectors. Despite what some revolutionaries think about this, desire is revolutionary in its essence-desire, not left-wing holidays!-and no society can tolerate a position of real desire without its structures of exploitation, servitude, and hierarchy being compromised.”

Nyle is part of the elite dominant ideology that sustains Ronald Reagan’s power and furnishes it with weapons to keep the Soviet Union in check. In this alternate 1983 the arms race isn’t nuclear but psychic and Elena is the Star Wars Project, the ultimate game changer if Nyle can engineer her for America’s dominance. Nyle has his own dark secret, a mind-bending trip to another dimension that unleashed his Jungian Shadow Self. Does Nyle’s conveyor belt of blue capsules keep his Shadow at arms length and stop him from shattering the status quo of the capitalist system of which he is a vital part of its repressive machinery?

So what hideous pot of gold waits Beyond the Black Rainbow? Panos Cosmatos’ film is awash with striking, menacing imagery and an ambient soundscape by Sinoia Caves that force-feeds the spectator genuine unease. Witness the phone call between and Nyle and a machine-code voice and you’ll never answer a landline again. Whether you believe the surreal visuals compensate for a flimsy narrative or actually provoke the audience to journey into the dark recesses of their own minds to piece together the story, Beyond the Black Rainbow is a genuine curiosity that deserves your attention. If Kubrick, Cronenberg, Russell, Carpenter and Lynch were part of your video education then you need to subject yourself to some time in The Arboria Institute.

Beyond the Black Rainbow is a Lovecraftian nightmare best summed up by that author himself, “To achieve the essence of real externality, whether of time or space or dimension, one must forget that such things as organic life, good and evil, love and hate, and all such local attributes of a negligible and temporary race called mankind, have any existence at all. Only the human scenes and characters must have human qualities. These must be handled with unsparing realism, (not catch-penny romanticism) but when we cross the line to the boundless and hideous unknown-the shadow-haunted Outside-we must remember to leave our humanity and terrestrialism at the threshold.”

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