Arrow Video Frightfest 2021 – Film Review – Dawn Breaks Behind The Eyes(2021)

A swooning love letter to European cinema of the sixties and seventies. Written on LSD blotter paper and signed off with a fuck you to cinematic conventions.

Melodramatic Margot and her crosspatch husband Dieter have inherited a beautiful but decrepit castle. Forced to stay the night, it does not take long for their state of mind to mirror that of the creepy keep.

Sadomasochistic tendencies erupt from the foundations of their crumbling romance as bitterness and resentment take a chokehold on their relationship.

The core strength of Dawn Breaks Behind the Eyes lies in its overwhelming ability to confound and surprise. A kaleidoscope of ideas and artistry that swirls around the viewer like a Psilocybinic smog. For this reason, no plot details will be discussed here. Nor should you seek any before viewing this evocative and lurid mind melter.

Unraveling like the freestyling spirit animal of Gaspar Noé’s irresponsibly cool Climax, it does not shy away from pretentiousness. Instead, it embraces it firmly and channels it into respectful homage. All narrative rigidity is jettisoned as stuffy ballast in a trippy realm where personal interpretation is king.

Anyone with even a cursory affection for the work of exploitation heavyweights Argento, Bava, and Rollin will adore immersing themselves in this modernised miasma of idiosyncratic eroticism and shock tactic violence.

Production-wise, every facet of Dawn Breaks Behind the Eyes is awash with invention and enthusiasm, determined to snuggle up and be an atmospheric accomplice to the visionary whole.

The original music from Audhentik, Liquid Brain Orchestra, and For Those Who Still Exist is astonishing. Backed up by superb tracks from the likes of Acid Frog, Gandalf, and The Art of Lovin’ this is easily one of most sensuously aligned soundtracks of the year.

Edited with a clean precision that maintains fluidity and consistency of style the film judiciously avoids an excessive run time. 73 minutes is just about long enough to rummage around after wandering into a stranger’s lucid fever dream.

The charismatic cast exhibits range, commitment, and versatility while director Kevin Kopacka shows he has a deft hand when it comes to allowing his actors the space to breathe during the film’s abrupt tonal shifts. You also get the impression that Kopacka was not about to let the pressures of independent moviemaking suck the joy out of the creative process.

Almost a character in its own right, the neogothic manor  Herrenhaus Vogelsang is the perfect backdrop for the movie’s Euro-horror aesthetic. Nestled imposingly in the small town of Lalendorf it’s shot, lit, and dressed impeccably. You can almost taste the bohemia and latent history. Ironically, the house proved the catalyst for a past relationship breakdown for its real-life current owner.

Like Argentine Giallo throwback Crystal Eyes and the much-loved One Cut of the Dead before it, Dawn Breaks Behind the Eyes shows what can be achieved by a small team of dedicated filmmakers who share the same acuity and are not afraid to take risks. All three showcase the same affinity and enthusiasm for the art of cinema and an easy crew camaraderie that bleeds from set to screen.

The film’s title is a direct reference to the revitalising power that rides on the coattails of every beautiful sunrise. Using dawn as an extended metaphor for hope and renewed expectations, specifically in the face of familiarity and disillusionment.

With that in mind, Kopacka’s exuberant flick is exactly the kind one desperately hopes to stumble upon at a pioneering festival like Frightfest. One of restorative freshness that blows away the musty cobwebs of platitude and randomises the pidgeon holes of genre cinema.

★★★★★

Psychedelic, Gothic Horror, Romance| Germany, 2021 | 73 mins | Dir. Kevin Kopacka | With:Anna Platen, Jeff Wilbusch, Frederik von Lüttichau, Luisa Taraz, Robert Nickish

SATURDAY 28TH AUGUST 2021 – 11.00 & 11.25 AM

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