Taking inspiration from Gothic horror films of the 60s and 70s, director and co-writer Kevin Kopacka‘s “Dawn Breaks Behind the Eyes” is a genre-bending film that requires multiple viewings to dissect. By combining horror, mystery, thriller, and experimental film styles, Kopacka creates a haunting atmosphere that’s artsy and abstract, but not irritatingly so.
The film shifts in time and space with a fluid storytelling method. The basic plot is about a couple who spend eternity in an abandoned castle. There’s so much more to it than that, especially as reality begins to shift and things are not what they seem. Margo (Luisa Taraz) comes from a wealthy family and has inherited a castle. She and her nasty, hostile husband Dieter (Frederik von Lüttichau) arrive to inspect the property. The castle is in a state of disrepair, covered in dust and cobwebs. The pair are spooked by some very distressing events that occur, and their sanity begins to slip. Eventually, a disturbing reality is exposed that’s not great for anyone involved.
This film will keep you guessing until the end. It starts out as an old fashioned haunted house ghost story, with straight-up creepy chills and scares. But then it grows into something heavier and more philosophical, and it’s up to audiences to decide on the deeper meaning. Themes of sexuality, desire, commitment to art, and the passage of time are dropped in and out of this fluid tale, which reminded me of a blend of “Mother!,” “Ghost Story,” and “Eyes Wide Shut.” The film can be interpreted in so many different ways, and it’s just one of the things to appreciate about it.
The cinematography (by Lukas Dolgner) is absolutely beautiful, with haunting visuals and dynamic lighting that creates an unsettling ambiance. The attention to detail is magnificent, with cloudy reflections in mirrors and ominously ticking clocks, and eagle-eyed viewers will be rewarded.
“Dawn Breaks Behind the Eyes” isn’t a traditional jump scare horror film. It is thoughtful and unhurried in a way that is slow but never boring. It’s bizarre and puzzling, yet I couldn’t stop watching because I just had to see how it ended. The open-to-interpretation finale may frustrate some, but this is a film that I’ll be thinking about for a long time to come.