A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness

A seven minute panoramic 360-degree enabling shot, filmed on a remote lake, barely seen at dusk beyond occasional ripples coming in and out of focus, ushers us into this meditative feature with an ethereal opening to rival the cosmic journeys through darkness bookending Carlos Reygadas’ ‘Silent Light’.


This is a collaboration from like minded filmmakers/artists, Ben Rivers and Ben Russell, which, unsurprisingly, defies easy classification, sitting somewhere between experimental film, free association documentary and video art and it’s not for anybody who thinks that this matters one jot.


Nor is it for those concerned with the niceties of differentiating one filmmaker’s contribution from the other; such pedantic distractions completely missing the point.


There are no footholds here with musician, Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe (aka Lichens), only gradually emerging as a dominant figure or, at least, a constant thread; sometimes interchanging between the film’s enigmatic subject, lead actor and notional guide, and others, being all three simultaneously, during an odyssey that takes us to three non-secular enclaves or pseudo nirvanas – dependent on your point of view – but it’s unimportant which.


And their countries of origin remain a mystery until the end credits, the filmmakers more concerned with global themes emanating from the film’s intriguing title.


A commune in Estonia strives for a hedonistic antidote to contemporary alienation that’s a throwback to the hippie Sixties but its group spirituality comes across as strangely isolating, always slightly beyond Lowe’s and other members’ reach.


Sublime long takes find the musician seeking and apparently finding solace in solitude fending for himself at a deserted lakeside Finnish wood; yet little mementoes of the outside world – a photograph here or a magazine there – hint at a lonelier seclusion.


And flashing strobe lights pick him out wearing a tribal white-painted face/mask in the 30 minute final section performing with a Norwegian death-metal band; their deep screeching vocals – Satanic screams – blast beat percussion and atonal thematic variations sending the underground audience into a hypnotic trance, an apparent shared spiritual state – a possible spell to ward off darkness – but as soon as the filmmakers expunge the music from the soundtrack, we see the fans engaging with it very individually, as alone as everybody else within the film.


In not finding the exception that proves the rule this beautifully lit film does create a different shared experience, capturing what it feels like for all of us to view the world as if in exile.

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October 3rd, 2014 - admin

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