Dawn Breaks Behind the Eyes is a German independent film written and directed by Kevin Kopacka, and co-written by Lili Villányi. The story begins with Margot (Luisa Taraz) and Dieter (Frederik von Lüttichau) driving to their recently inherited, run-down castle. The story seemed to be quite predictable at first. She comes from an exceedingly wealthy family, and he is unable to cope with the fact he is not the one in power. They can’t decide what to do with the house, and they continue to argue while having sexual moments throughout. It seems like an obvious set-up for the rest of the movie, but the film does a full 180 that comes out of nowhere.
I will not go into full spoilers for the second half of the film. I think it is better to go in blind, and then completely adjust your mindset when it gets to that moment. Overall, the Dawn Breaks Behind the Eyes is about women in relationships and how they are treated by men who fail to appreciate them. Margot’s story in the first half is a major influence on the second half which follows Eva (Anna Platen), a woman whose thoughts and opinions are constantly shoved to the side by her significant other. Overall, the film is more excited with its plot twists and the shocking nature of the second half rather than the feminist theme. In a movie that is so short, a mere 76 minutes, its point should get across quickly and effectively, but it took me a couple of viewings before I fully came to appreciate and understand what it was saying. Dawn Breaks Behind the Eyes becomes better on repeat viewings when you can finally connect all the seemingly disconnected threads.
While there is a story there, the film is definitely more interested in the striking images it is creating. In what can assuredly be an extremely low budget (according to IMDB it is self-financed by the director), it makes the most of the shadowy, dimly lit castle to provide some beautiful shots. Also, the use of color in the second half is quite captivating, and is my favorite part of the film. It is quite aesthetically pleasing, especially combined with the score and the cinematography. Although the imagery is the best part of the film, I did not feel scared or anxious throughout, and I am a relatively easy target for most horror or thriller films. Despite the visuals’ best effort, the confusion I felt during my first viewing, because of the story, took away the opportunity for tension.
Dawn Breaks Behind the Eyes is a very small film that can be an interesting watch, but it has a very thin storyline. Kopacka has excellent instincts as a director, so I hope he has the opportunity to tackle something longer with more breathing room for story in the future. Considering its successful horror festival run in 2021, and its confined nature, it seems like it helped keep members of the German film industry employed, which is always a great thing. It releases digitally on Friday June 24th.