DVD Review: A Spell To Ward Off Darkness

Ben Rivers is an experimental British film maker and Fine Art graduate, best known for his avant-garde documentary Two Years at Sea. He takes the raw image and transforms it into magical worlds. Ben Russell is also an experimental film-maker, who focusses on the very essence of cinema and the cinematic narrative. Their shared interest in ethnology, ritual, solitude and urban alienation saw them come together to tour a programme of their short films under the banner We Cannot Exist in This World Alone.

Their first collaboration together is A Spell To Ward Off Darkness. Tackling similar themes to their previous works its focal point (if it has a focal point) is musician Robert A.A. Lowe. The film follows his journey from a collective living on a small Estonian Island, through isolation in the Northern Finland wilderness, to a concert featuring his black metal band in Norway. There’s no narrative as such, and it feels as much of a visual essay as it is a film. The limited conversation in the commune features themes of spiritualism and solitude, and this seems a constant throughout.

It would be easy to write-off A Spell to Ward Off Darkness as a glorified art project, but that would be doing it an injustice. There’s certainly something there and it’s a fascinating subject. The connectivity and urbanisation does leave us with an inner loneliness, as if we were stranded in the wilderness. We live much of our lives in our own heads, and this state is transcendent across any situation. The concept isn’t really fleshed out fully, and it’s subtle, but the pair are definitely on to something. This is not a film for the faint hearted but it’s an impressive attempt to address issues through a film with no narrative structure.

A Spell to Ward Off Darkness is released on DVD and Blu-ray by Soda Pictures on December 1.

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