While watching Beyond the Black Rainbow a curious quote from a totally unrelated film* got stuck in my head.
“Do you know what it’s like to be unmade?”
After viewing BtBR twice, my answer is a resounding “yes.”
The word I often heard being used to describe this film was “challenging.” Apparently that stuck with me, for when I settled in to watch I found myself in a heightened state of awareness. I concentrated on every frame so intensely that I think I pulled a muscle. I also managed to wring any enjoyment out of the viewing experience. Hence my desire for a second look.
You really don’t need to watch BtBR like a maniac. While very visual and deliberately paced, everything is clearly explained. Simply paying a normal amount of attention will ensure a complete understanding of plot. It will also allow you to enjoy what are some of the most haunting visuals I’ve seen put to film.
The film’s most obvious appeal comes from these visuals. At the risk of over-using the descriptor, everything the viewer is shown is deliberate; from the colors used to the way the subjects are framed. It’s really quite mesmerizing and best experienced with an open, empty mind. As I said, the plot will follow along naturally.
And that plot, for me, is the greatest draw. The story unravels like a lazy cobra; you know something’s coming, and you’re pretty sure it won’t be pleasant. The deliberate unwinding of the story is enjoyable and adds to the unsettled feeling provided by what’s on screen. All aspects, including audio (the music is amazing), help to shape the overall experience. Again, since I’m already hammering it into the ground, every choice made by writer/director Panos Cosmatos is deliberate and aids in guiding you through a desired experience.
In the end, BtBR left me feeling like I had been slightly unwound, unmade. That’s not such a bad thing.
*This line of dialogue is delivered by Hawkeye in The Avengers.