Monday, October 12, 2015

Beyond the Black Rainbow

Elana has lived beneath the Arboria Institute her entire life.  A facility espousing a synthesis between spirituality and science, The Institute in fact serves as her prison, where she can be examined by Dr. Barry Nyle, a protege of founder Dr. Mercurio Arboria.  Elena possesses telepathic ability which allows her not only to convey messages but also kill those who seek to violate her.   Dr. Nyle, however, can shut her down with a mysterious illuminated prism.

Nyle (Michael Rogers) is a very strange dude, never quite the same after his mentor baptized him in some black fluid in an effort to seek supernatural power.   That was in the mid 1960s, when Dr. Arboria's New Age ideals were novel and embraced and Nyle was a promising disciple.  2010's BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW takes place in 1983, by which time Nyle has become a total psychopath, subjecting his (only?) patient to interrogative "therapy", teasing her with pictures of her mother, in harshly lit rooms.  He speaks in a tone that registers calm and sinister in a near one to one.  The doctor also ingests large quantities of pharmaceuticals and wears a wig, returning each night to his near catatonic spouse, Rosemary (Marilyn Norry), who watches Reagan give speeches on the perils of totalitarian societies.

Elana (Eva Allan) plots escape.  How will she manage the outside world? Soil under her feet? Can she bypass Nyle, the prism, a zombie, and the red suited "Sentionauts"?

BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW is in that tradition of glacially paced, jargon heavy science fiction with weird musical accompaniment (Moogs and Mellotrons).  Usually, we're placed in a dystopian future.  The atmosphere of 1983 is integral in this film, even as much time is spent in a labyrinth of geometric bright hallways and mirrored rooms.  It is a movie that recalls Cronenberg in many ways, right down to its being a Canadian production.  The director is Panos Cosmatos, son of George, who directed several action films in the '80s and '90s.  RAINBOW does not recall such movies in the slightest.

In other words, most viewers will neither have the inclination or patience to see this movie beyond oh, say, fifteen minutes. My first viewing was filled with impatience and a haste to write it off as a pretentious failure, an amateurish stab to create the sort of vibe ala SOLARIS,  2001, or even THX 1138.   The grainy 35mm visuals with their striking use of color command attention but sometimes lose it in several static moments. A few too many repetitive shots.  You really drink in this film.  It is not a narrative piece, but its story line does give some thought to issues of both mental and physical awareness, memory, and of course control.  Individual and societal.   Setting the movie during the Cold War is a good tip off to Cosmatos' ideas.

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