Beyond the Black Rainbow (2010
Written by Mads Heilskov
Beyond the Black Rainbow is the debut of director and writer Panos Cosmatos, and what a strange one it is: think the cosmic, psychedelic parts of Twin Peaks, but colder and darker. The loose, almost inexistent storyline is set at a psychiatric research facility called The Arboria Institute during the 1960s and 1980s.
Here you follow a young heavily medicated girl, Elena, trying to escape the strange and somewhat menacing Dr Barry Nyle. From that base, the movie descends into a realm of madness, delusion and paranoia. The Arborea Institute is a cold and dark place where everything is kind of off. Throughout the movie, we are met with scrambled timelines and weird stuff happening. Everything is set in hazy red and black colours make it hard to follow what is actually happening on-screen. In that sense, we see things from the perspective of the captive girl, whose sense of reality is blurred due to her treatment and general mental state as well as that of Dr Nyle, who seems to be completely out of touch with any conventional reality throughout the entire movie.
Beyond the Black rainbow only features sparse dialogue and most of the time strange things are taking place in front of your eyes to a dark whooshing ambient score. When words are incidentally spoken, they barely make any sense, just emphasising that what goes on at the Arborea Institute has a deep impact on the sense of the reality of all who participate. As the plot unravels, it opens up a little bit and you get little snippets of the institute’s history and hints as to what kind of research is going on. Without revealing too much, the research at the Arborea Institute is linked with the psychedelic experimentation and interest in the cosmic and the occult in the 1960s. We are never really sure if the whole thing is simply a lasting bad trip instigated by heavy drug use or if the doctors and patients really have had their third eye opened and are able to experience a fearful reality beyond the ordinary. What remains is that Beyond the Black Rainbow is a paranoia-inducing and disturbing psychedelic trip into the dark side of the human mind, hinting at something larger and more frightening. It is not for everyone, but if you enjoy watching beautiful images of deep paranoia happening inside hyper-modernist rooms shot in hazy colours or if you simply find the entanglement of psychedelic drugs, science and the occult interesting, you should give this a shot and enter a strange dimension beyond the black rainbow.