Dawn Breaks Behind the Eyes, 2021.
Directed by Kevin Kopacka.
Starring Anna Platen, Jeff Wilbusch, Frederik von Lüttichau, Luisa Taraz, and Robert Nickisch.
A couple go to visit an old mansion they have inherited, and then things get weird.
A hit on the festival circuit last year, director Kevin Kopacka’s Dawn Breaks Behind the Eyes finally makes it to streaming services for a wider audience to soak in its many delights.
Basically a trippy, psychedelic love letter to the European Gothic horror movies of the 1960s and ‘70s, the movie begins with a couple – Dieter (Frederik von Lüttichau) and Magot (Luisa Taraz) – driving to an old mansion house that Margot has inherited from her deceased uncle. It is quite clear from the journey that there is something not quite harmonious about their relationship as Dieter is uptight and Margot is being frosty, and when the couple arrive they discover that the creepy old house might have a few secrets within its walls as they both feel that there is a presence taking them over.
And to say any more than that is to do the film a disservice, as what happens after that particular revelation is made clear needs to be experienced rather than read about. Dawn Breaks Behind the Eyes is a film that you just have to let wash over you as you immerse yourself in the glorious Gothic atmosphere that Kevin Kopacka has created, as the obvious genre reference points – Argento, Bava, etc. – bleed into more contemporary comparisons such as Society (alright, it’s thirty years old but it’s more recent than the best works of the aforementioned Italian directors), Berberian Sound Studio and One Cut of the Dead.
Not that Dawn Breaks Behind the Eyes emulates any of those movies but it does tickle the senses in a similar way by doing something unexpected and never relying on narrative structure, instead being a movie of two distinct acts that does most of its best work in the first act, where Dieter and Margot’s plight is pure Euro-horror to the point where it almost dares you not to think of Mario Bava’s The Whip and the Body as Dieter discovers a whip hidden in the basement and starts to feel empowered when he tries to use it on Margot.
The second act is where the film goes totally off the rails and, potentially, could lose audiences either a) not attuned to European art house filmmaking or b) expecting a haunted house movie, but it is best not to go into it expecting anything other than a total sensory overload, pressing those subliminal buttons whilst offering up a bizarre commentary on art and the nature of relationships, delivered in the same detached and surreal way that all the best European genre movies from previous decades were, only with the benefit of a modern eye controlling all of the mayhem.
Dawn Breaks Behind the Eyes is not a movie that everyone will appreciate and cries of style over substance is the likely negative comment that will get thrown at it, but if you temper your expectations – i.e. don’t expect a multiplex-pleasing supernatural horror – and allow its haunting beauty take you on a journey for the perfect 74-minute – not a minute more or less is needed – running time then you will be rewarded with a unique viewing experience that is crying out for a physical UHD release, just to really let that fine attention to shine through as much as possible. Here’s hoping.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★