A sumptuous love letter to Bava, Argento and Fulci, director-screenwriter Kevin Kopacka The dawn rises behind the eyes is a stylish ode to all things giallo. From its story and cinematography to its trippy soundtrack and wonderfully cryptic title that echoes genre stalwarts such as Don’t torture a duckling, Contraction of the death nerveand All the colors of blackit’s modern giallo.
The film introduces us to a rather dysfunctional coupé, Dieter (Frederik von Lüttichau) and Margot (Luisa Taraz), who visit an inherited and decaying castle. Their trigger-happy tempers mean they’re just seconds away from their next explosion. Dieter wants to leave before he even sets foot inside and, though reluctant, Margot finds herself inextricably drawn to the elements inside.
Between barking insults at Margot, Dieter misplaces his car keys, prompting the couple to stay the night, which only propels their marital decadence to match their decrepit surroundings. Perhaps prompted by the house, or something more insidious within, the pair act more on their disdain for each other. When things reach their breaking point, Kopacka and co-writer Lili Villányi have a little fun with the audience, pulling a few rugs from under us.
It would be criminal to go into detail for fear of spoiling one of the store tricks, so instead just allow The dawn rises behind the eyes to wash you over like a hot wave of psychedelics among friends.
“…prompted by the house…the couple further act on their contempt for each other.”
With the same affection for its subgenre that Tarantino and Rodriguez lavished on exploitation with Crusher, the mysterious horror tale nails the vibe of its cinematic ancestry. Making the most of its location, cinematographer Lukas Dolgner imbibes the same yellowish lens of its pulpy predecessors. Stitching it with sound, Kopacka enlists a number of retro-sounding songs with a suitably macabre score. I was shocked to learn that Acid Frog songs have actually been released in the last decade and not some obscure 1960s act.
The cast skilfully jumps with the tonal shifts, inviting the audience to follow them through this bizarre house of entertainment. von Lüttichau and Taraz have the latitude to explore their characters beyond their initial rigid particularities. Additionally, Jeff Wilbusch and Anna Platen provide additional narrative fuel in later acts.
Despite budget constraints, The dawn rises behind the eyes perpetually surprises with his ability to spin all his plates throughout his kaleidoscopic journey. Despite a few detours, it returns to the central theme of the fragility of male-female relationships and the corrosive behaviors that we allow to infiltrate. Plus, it manages to accomplish all of that with a net runtime of 73 minutes that doesn’t exceed its one-minute welcome.
The dawn rises behind the eyes would make a fitting double poster with directors Ezequiel Endelman and Leandro Montejano’s 2017 film crystal eyeswhich also nails the genre’s aesthetic with an enthusiasm and style that seems to bleed from every scene.