REVIEW: Dawn Breaks Behind the Eyes (2021)

dir. Kevin Kopacka

We’ve all been trapped for a while now, haven’t we? And after 18 months of a world slowed by an all-consuming, unseen threat this has, unsurprisingly, bled into the culture around us. There is an increasing strand of cinema that taps into this feeling of a force, out of sight and far beyond our control, placing its characters into an unwanted stasis. Joining the likes of Robert Eggers’ The Lighthouse, Max Barbakow’s Palm Springs and Richard Waters’ Bring Out the Fear (less products of the pandemic and more works whose timing has been oddly apt), is Kevin Kopacka’’s Dawn Breaks Behind the Eyes.

The set-up is simple: a couple (Frederik von Lüttichau and Luisa Taraz), in the process of verbally tearing each other apart, arrive late one evening at a castle in need of repair. They stay the night, and then seem to stay an eternity, as time and reality appear to shift around them.

The film is most compelling on a technical level, packed with references to various movements of horror in the 60s and 70s as the film weaves a path through Gothic curio, giallo terror and ends up somewhere a bit trippier. The work by cinematographer Lukas Dolgner is particularly commendable, whilst Kopacka’s true skill lies in his editing (as well as the music selection for the film’s stunning soundtrack).

But the narrative can’t help but frustrate. Which is maybe the point, but it certainly limits the enjoyment level. This, coupled with a pair of quite dislikeable central characters, makes Dawn Breaks Behind the Eyes a film that’s easy to admire but tough to like.

⭐⭐⭐

Russell Bailey

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