The 8 Films That Influenced Kevin Kopacka's ‘Dawn Breaks Behind The Eyes’

Dawn Breaks Behind the Eyes will have its US Release via Dark Sky Films (limited theatrical & VOD) on June 24th.

After inheriting a run-down castle, a dispirited woman and her ill-tempered husband decide to spend the night, as time and reality shift around them.

Dawn Breaks Behind the Eyes is my love letter to the horror genre, but more aptly an homage to gothic horror.

My first encounter with this sub genre was a painted book cover for a ghost stories anthology I found in my attic as a 10 year old. The cover simply showed a woman with a candle in a nightgown standing in front of a dark mansion. In the distance an older, sinister looking woman was hidden away, staring at her. Up until that point my association with horror was mostly vampires, mummies and werewolves, but I was fascinated by this painting. Nothing depicted was scary in itself, but due to the atmosphere and possible implications, this image was somehow unsettling to me. This has always fascinated me and that's what made me a fan of gothic horror - before I even knew that this term existed.

With Dawn Breaks Behind the Eyes, I wanted to combine many of my favorite elements of this genre and add my own spin to it to create something fun, bizarre & trippy that’s a throwback to the 70s, but also a modern approach to the genre.

Here are the 8 films that inspired me the most while making the film.

Check out the full list on Letterboxd's Horrorville here.

The Iron Rose by Jean Rollin
While I could list just about any Rollin movie, The Iron Rose was the main inspiration for this film. The movie explores the constantly shifting dynamic of a couple trapped in a graveyard. A simple story without classic horror elements, but told with an eerie, poetic & sensual atmosphere. It inspired the initial premise of my film, where I wanted to explore the dynamic of a couple who spend eternity in a castle.

The Whip and the Body by Mario Bava
Same as with Rollin, Bava is a master of (gothic) horror. Slow, deliberate camera movements combined with beautiful lighting, shocking acts of violence and bold stylistic choices. The Whip and the Body was an inspiration for many reasons - the most obvious being the incorporation of the whip and its symbolism in terms of relationship & sexuality.

Chinese Roulette by Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Setting a film in the 70s in Germany, I was obviously inspired by German films from that era. While most associate Fassbinder with kitchen sink drama, I think his films also have moments of absurdity and a rather dark sense of humor. Chinese Roulette is an exploration of a doomed marriage. A Husband and wife each have secret lovers and by chance of fate all of them, along with their daughter and other people spend the night in their holiday mansion. The film has an almost dreamlike aura to it, enhanced by the poetic dialogue, the meticulous camera movements by Michael Ballhaus as well as a great score by Peer Raben.

Last Year in Marienbad by Alain Resnais.
One of my favorite films, due to its experimental narrative structure, exquisite cinematography & set design and mesmerizing, surreal atmosphere. Told in such a way that leaves a lot of room for interpretation, it’s a puzzle box waiting to be solved. A film that showed me that a story can follow a more experimental narrative approach, yet still leave enough clues for the audience to figure out the mysteries being told.

Hair by Miloš Forman
My late father was a hippie and as a kid the musical “Hair” gave me my first impression of what hippie life might have been like. It’s of course a very exaggerated (and more or less family friendly) depiction, but I loved that film growing up - and I was definitely inspired to use a similarly over the top approach in my film.

Society - Brian Yuzna Combining all the best elements of 80s horror, with impressive practical effects that still hold up today and a (literal) tongue in cheek approach that is outlandish and fun, yet terrifying at the same time. “Society” inspired one particular scene in the film, and I’m sure it won’t be too hard to figure out which one that is.

Psych Out by Richard Rush
As I got older and got more interested in counter culture and psychedelic music, I stumbled upon “Psych Out”. I think it was the first depiction I saw of psychedelic trips, including a very memorable “bad trip” moment, that stuck with me. All of this accompanied by an awesome soundtrack from the likes of Strawberry Alarm Clock. Makes a great double feature with “The Trip”.

Daughters of Darkness by Harry Kümel
Instead of gothic castles and nightgowns, we have a stylish resort and extravagant dresses, yet this is gothic horror through and through. Artistic and moody, this film tells the story of a newlywed couple stranded in a grand hotel who get seduced and terrorized by a countess (brilliantly portrayed by Delphine Seyrig). A beautiful & sensual psychological vampire film that explores repression and abusive relationships

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Kevin Kopacka is an Austrian-Sri Lankan painter, video artist and director.

He grew up in Graz, Austria and moved to Berlin, Germany in 2006. In 2007 he started his studies of Fine Art at the University of Arts, Berlin in the class of Japanese artist Leiko Ikemura and graduated as Master student in 2012

He currently lives and works in Berlin. His work is often abstract and usually deals with paranormal and metaphysical elements. 

You can follow him on Letterboxd, Instagram and Twitter.