Monday, 30 December 2013


For what purpose and to what effect? Such questions Ben Rivers and Ben Russell could have, and should have asked themselves before embarking on this documentary project. There is considerable beauty here, and considerable bravery in their direction, but it is hollow and soulless, with no purpose and to no effect. It is at this point that I must interject to alert you that this review is a stain on my already thoroughly soiled archive of film reviews. The fault may be partially with Rivers and Russell, but it is surely more with me. I am honest when I write that I allowed my cultural prejudices to inform my opinions on A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness, but also somewhat embarrassed that I ever even did. You see, each time I witnessed another hippie (not a slur, I have enormous respect for the hippie movement) babbling on about philosophy or sex or some other intellectual concept, my desire to give credence to their sincerity was overridden by my natural response, that these are adolescent minds, unsure and unformed. There's nothing wrong with that, but there's probably something wrong with their delusional arrogance in entrusting their thoughts and words with such validity, and the same is true for Rivers and Russell. And my prejudice against heavy metal set my mind adrift in the film's closing sequence, a single shot of a single set-piece, of relentless vocal and electronic screeching, sad souls expressing their half-baked ennui through face painting and sweaty locks of long, lank hair. This may have a transcendent effect on some, and I won't deny that the directors are onto something with the striking choices they make in their craft, but its effect on me was nil. Vivid imagery doesn't exactly enliven the film's middle stretch, as it's much too contemplative in tone for that, but it certainly makes for an impressive, memorable interlude between the dreck that bookends this pretentious documentary.