The first feature-film collaboration between celebrated artist-filmmakers Ben Rivers (Two Years at Sea) and Ben Russell (Let Each One Go Where He May) follows a nameless protagonist (played by musician Robert AA Lowe) as he explores three very different existential options: as a member of a commune on a small Estonian island; living alone in the breathtaking wilds of northern Finland; and fronting a neo-pagan black metal band in Norway.

Wavelengths

A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness

Ben Rivers, Ben Russell

The close collaboration between internationally celebrated artist-filmmakers Ben Rivers (Two Years at Sea) and Ben Russell (Let Each One Go Where He May) has yielded an intriguing ethno-trance aesthetic that finds its stunning summa in their much anticipated co-directed feature A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness. An immersive, at times mesmerizing experience, Spell follows a nameless protagonist — played with Bressonian restraint by musician Robert A.A. Lowe, of Lichens and Om fame — as he explores three markedly different existential options: as a member of a fifteen-person commune on a small Estonian island; living alone in the breathtaking wilds of northern Finland; and as a singer-guitarist for a neopagan black metal band in Norway.

Shot on Super 16mm by Rivers, Russell and Chris Fawcett (the Steadicam operator for Let Each One), Spell is awash in atmosphere, bathed successively in natural, incandescent sunshine, the blues of a perpetual magic hour, and the stroboscopic concert lighting of a dingy bar. Liberated from conventional narrative causality, Robert's trajectory charts a continuous drift (superbly conveyed by a floating camera) that signals a radical investigation of the self, an enigmatic effort to "ward off the darkness" that is engulfing our increasingly secularized world. Is this a search for fulfillment, mutual understanding, a gesture to quell boredom and unremitting solitude, an affront to utopianism, or simply a natural progression through life?

Choreographing the movements of their non-actors, Rivers and Russell explore a participatory ethnography with both their real-life characters and us, the viewers, drawing deeply from the elemental in order to shake us from our viewing habits. Bound by the structures that inevitably dictate our lives, it's easy to forget that the world is vast and ripe with possibilities, and that we should probably attempt a few alternate modes of existence before we leave this Earth behind.

ANDRÉA PICARD

Screenings

Sat Sep 07

Jackman Hall

Regular
10:30pm
Sun Sep 08

Scotiabank 6

Industry
7:45pm
Mon Sep 09

TIFF Bell Lightbox 4

Regular
4:30pm
Sun Sep 15

Scotiabank 8

Regular
6:30pm