The Rainbow Experiment, 2018.
Directed and Written by Christina Kallas.
Starring Christian Coulson, Vandit Bhatt, Kevin Kane, and Connor Seimer.
A New York High School responds to a tragic science class accident.
Tracing the aftermath of a tragic schoolroom accident, The Rainbow Experiment plays out as an artful expressionistic why-dunnit. A post-modern detective story taking a wide-viewed focus on the characters and events surrounding the inquiry, Christina Kallas (42 Seconds of Happiness) experimental and surreal mystery is as intriguing as it is unclassifiable.
The main path of the film focuses on the memories and accounts of teachers, students and parents, as investigation staff attempt to discern exactly what happened during the fateful chemistry class that led to the fire. Brilliantly showing how unreliable such testimonies can be, the film highlights how every individual has a unique perspective on events. Everyone’s background and personal story can influence – even in the smallest of ways – how they see and remember things that have happened.
The central facts of the matter are this. An unruly class of kids are supposed to be paying attention to a ‘rainbow experiment’, where a small wood taper soaked in chemical solution is set alight with a bunsen burner. The teacher is having great trouble keeping control of the class, and eventually calls up one of the most troublesome to have a go at helping her manage the experiment. The result being that it blows up in his face.
Matty (Connor Seimer), the victim, and possible instigator of the accident, is the central protagonist and our ghostly on screen narrator. We are introduced to him after the fire erupts in the chemistry class, and the film is careful not to let us know his exact fate. He has a ghostly air about him as he sets out the main themes of memory and dream. Connor also shows a strong sense of bleak humour fully in keeping with the strange and multi-layered disquiet on offer.
The film brings a close examination of the explosive event and everyone’s lives that surround it. Providing a stark portrayal of all kinds of different anxieties, the film never takes an expected path and continues to surprise throughout.
Whenever the story moves away from the central drama of the investigation, it does so subtly and with a keen point. Whether it is looking at a teacher’s sexuality or the drug dealing taking place around the school, it does so with the same ominous dreamy quality that makes the whole production an eerie journey into the unknown.
If there is a message to be gleaned from this thoughtful film it could be that absolutely everything is connected; everything happens for a reason, and there are no accidents. But, then again, like everything else in the film, it is left completely open, so it is purely subjective. Likely to infuriate some with its lack of precise resolution, I personally found it to be a haunting rumination on how fragile perceptions of reality actually are.
The Rainbow Experiment is released in the USA on VOD December 7th and Blu-ray on December 11th.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★/ Movie: ★ ★
Robert W Monk is a freelance journalist and film writer.