Dawn Breaks Behind The Eyes (Review): Domestic Gothic Drama
While visually stunning, Dawn Breaks Behind The Eyes suffers from a screenplay that may mislead viewers, resulting in a twist that may not be welcome.
“Having just inherited a run down castle, a dispirited woman and her ill-tempered husband decide to spend the night, as time and reality slowly starts to shift around them.” This is the description for Kevin Kopacka’s most recent offering, promising a visually splendid foray into dysfunctional marriage by way of gothic horror. A proclaimed “love letter to European cinema of the sixties and seventies,” Dawn Breaks Behind The Eyes sets itself up to be a unique and visually dazzling addition to arthouse horror. And let me tell you, dear reader, it certainly is unique.
Let me say right off the bat that Dawn Breaks Behind the Eyes is an extremely good-looking movie. The lighting is great, making excellent use of color and shadow to craft striking tableaus, while the vibrant shades of reds, yellows, and blues color the screen evoking German Expressionist imagery. It also does a great job of presenting darkness while still allowing the viewer to actually be able to tell what’s happening! Again, it’s that blue shading that really makes it a treat to watch.
Outside of the lights, the set is grand and gothic, and the cinematography is great at showcasing these set pieces’ grandeur, contrasting with the actors’ comparatively smaller size. The soundtrack is minimal but effective, with certain instruments coming to represent characters as you follow them through this massive and empty castle. The only real issue to be had with Dawn Breaks Behind The Eye’s craft is the sound editing: during some dialogue, you can hear some ambient white noise picked up by the microphone while an actor is talking, but it will immediately disappear once they’re done speaking, reverting back to the original sounds of the scene. Now, this issue does go away in the film’s second half, suggesting this may have been an intentional choice, but you still may find it distracting in the moment.
Speaking of the second half, this is, unfortunately, where the film falls flat for me. You see, all of the marketing and promotional material would have you believe that you were in for a certain kind of film. The synopsis you might read and the trailer you might watch would have you believe that this is roughly the story of a dysfunctional couple inheriting an empty mansion haunted by some sort of dark familial past, while a descent into madness mirrors the husband’s own mistreatment of his wife. And for the first half of the film, that’s what it seems to be.
But a little before the halfway mark, Dawn Breaks Behind The Eye becomes a completely different movie. Like, completely different. With different characters, different relationships, different cinematographic choices: it seems like a completely different movie made by completely different people attached to the end of the first half. It’s really hard to explain without spoiling anything, but you may get some real tonal whiplash as the film seems to delight in tricking its audience. And the thing is, I could have absolutely seen this working: if the first half was shortened up to give the second half more time to be the actual plot, then it would have been much more cohesive and the transition far less jarring. I suppose the plot and themes remain consistent within the two halves, but it feels border-line deceitful to promise a sort of movie and then pull out the rug halfway through, you know?
It’s hard to really divulge much information about Dawn Breaks Behind The Eye without spoiling everything, so you’ll have to forgive me for my evasiveness. Would I recommend this movie? I guess I would: like I said, it’s visually great, and it also has strong performances from its entire cast. While each half of the movie could be very strong in and of itself, neither is given the proper attention to be fleshed out into something great (and the film’s runtime is less than 75 minutes, so each half goes by real fast). If this sounds interesting to you, then by all means give Dawn Breaks Behind The Eye a chance, but just keep in mind: whatever you think this movie is about, you’re wrong.
Dawn Breaks Behind The Eyes will be released on digital platforms on June 24, 2022.
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