Archive of films Spell to Ward Off the Darkness / A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness

France / Estonia
2013, 96 min

Section: Tribute to Ben Rivers
Year: 2014

A mysterious man (Robert A. A. Lowe, known musically as Lichens) seeks to gain experience in a community of young people and in isolation in the wilderness, then spreads his new found inner strength by means of transcendental black metal. Three acts, one experience, and a dreamlike movie highlighting the significance of ritual for human solidarity.


Three acts, one sense of a profound, shared experience. An enigmatic man is part of a freethinking community on an Estonian island, then completely alone in the wilds of northern Finland, and finally he ends up playing a half-hour concert that reveals the raw strength of Norway’s black metal. In this, his second feature, Rivers again shifts our perception of conventional social situations. In the present film, which is just as deliberate as its protagonist, Rivers and codirector Ben Russell, an American artist, dispense with the dramatic fall, replacing it with an event associated with the moments in which we obtain and absorb experience. For the final catharsis, the filmmakers seek out an underground club to hold a séance, joined by lead actor Robert A. A. Lowe, known musically as Lichens, Nicholas McMaster of the black metal group Krallice, Hunter Hunt-Hendrix of the generically similar Liturgy, and drummer Weasel Walter.

About the director

Ben Russell, Ben Rivers Ben Russell, Ben Rivers

Ben Rivers (see accompanying article). Ben Russell (b. 1976), American artist and filmmaker whose recent independent art shows include Paris, Cairo, and Chicago. As a director, his filmworks have screened at festivals from Rotterdam to the Viennale to Paris’s Centre George Pompidou. He gained a name for his Trypps series of short films and won the FIPRESCI Prize at Rotterdam for his feature debut Let Each One Go Where He May (2009). In his films he repeatedly touches on the history and semiotics of moving pictures, transforming ideas into powerful cinematic experiences (e.g. Daumë, 2000; Let Us Persevere in What We Have Resolved Before We Forget, 2013) that might be grouped under the rubric "psychedelic ethnography.” For A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness, the creators equally shared the duties of director, DOP, and editor.


Rouge International
6 rue de Braque, 75003, Paris
Tel: +33 951 493 844
E-mail: [email protected]

About the film

Color, DCP

Section: Tribute to Ben Rivers
Director: Ben Russell, Ben Rivers
Screenplay: Ben Rivers, Ben Russell
Dir. of Photography: Ben Rivers, Ben Russell
Music: Veldo Tormis, Queequeg (Hunt-Hendrix, Lowe, McMaster, Walter), Robert A. A. Lowe
Editor: Ben Rivers, Ben Russell
Producer: Nadia Turincev, Julie Gayet
Production: Rouge International
Coproduction: Black Hand
Cast: Robert A. A. Lowe, Tuomo Tuovenen, Katri Sipiläinen, Hunter Hunt-Hendrix, Nicholas McMaster, Weasel Walter
Contact: Rouge International


Ben Rivers

Film Director


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