Reality and Relationships Crumble in Dawn Breaks Behind the Eyes (PANIC)
Title: Dawn Breaks Behind the Eyes
First Non-Festival Release: June 24, 2022 (Digital/Streaming Platforms)
Director: Kevin Kopacka
Writer: Kevin Kopacka, Lili Villányi
Runtime: 73 Minutes
Starring: Anna Platen, Jeff Wilbusch, Luis Taraz
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
This film’s review was written after its screening at the Panic Film Festival in 2022.
Time passes by slowly for a couple in a vast castle in the middle of the forest. Things change for them as narratives are challenged and cycles are broken for the better. Full of dreamlike wonder, timelines collapse, relationships are tested, arguments flair up, and bonds break indefinitely. It is difficult to give little away when discussing this German oddity, as much of what is shown onscreen is not what meets the eyes.
A technicolor dream full of gothic sets and philosophical ponderings, Dawn Breaks Behind the Eyes is a special type of arthouse horror.
The story behind Dawn Breaks Behind the Eyes ebbs and flows around a traditional narrative. Cyclic in nature, the film explores the breakdown of one relationship tested through time until someone finally gets it right. Audiences are tested, as it isn’t easily explained, and patient viewers must take in the entire experience to fully understand. A sense of triumph shines through the end, even though the end may never come at all.
Dawn Breaks Behind the Eyes focuses more on ideas than a concrete story. Interspersing the struggles of a couple doomed to repeat their mistakes for all of eternity, concepts of forgiveness, agency, and breaking toxic cycles of dependence are mulled over the course of the film’s brisk 75-minute runtime. Feminist horror through and through, Dawn Breaks Behind the Eyes questions what strength means for women and what redemption means for men. It is truly fascinating and hearty in terms of pondering after the film, but it is confined to a story that is otherwise meandering and indecipherable.
Despite its high production values, the feeling Dawn Breaks Behind the Eyes ends on is confusing. Perhaps repeat viewings are necessary to understand the gravity of the cycle breaking. The realizations are subtle and the consequences for ignoring them are large. It prompts some great conversation about the responsibility of blame and accountability. Its slower pace and melancholy approach to this fits the tone of the film but do it no service in terms of accessibility. As a reviewer who values transparency, I am also perfectly keen to admit that I may have missed the point altogether. These issues do not necessarily make Dawn Breaks Behind the Eyes a bad film, but one that simply isn’t for me.
A visual feast, Dawn Breaks Behind the Eyes is lusciously filmed with dazzling cinematography and beautiful gothic sets. Clearly inspired by 70s hippie culture and the classic architecture of medieval times, Dawn Breaks Behind the Eyes takes full advantage of its sweeping set to craft something truly special in its filming. Kaleidoscopes of colors and masterfully edited quick shots help build up to the film’s bizarre finale. By the time the denouement is reached, the viewer is beyond overwhelmed in the best way from the assault of imagery. It is absolutely the strongest part of the film when compared to its weak story.
The cast does a great job with their roles but Frederik von Lüttichau and Luis Taraz stand out from the crowd as the bickering couple entering the castle for the first time together. Their commitment to honoring the mannerisms of the past helps the film achieve its overall aesthetic and ode to the grand cinematic achievements of the 60s and 70s.
Personally, I wanted to like Dawn Breaks Behind the Eyes more than I did. It is beautifully filmed, expounds on many timely and important topics, and does so in a 70s aesthetic, which hits plenty of my boxes. Unfortunately, the clunky narrative gets in the way of it being a truly enjoyable film. For those that find pleasure in more surreal and cerebral films will likely deeply enjoy this one, while those that like some definitiveness in the end will struggle. The day may come for you to seek out something unique and Dawn Breaks Behind the Eyes just might be that forgotten film to dazzle you with wonder and whimsy.
Overall Score? 5.5/10