A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness

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A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness
Directed byBen Russell
Ben Rivers
Produced byJulie Gayet
Indrek Kasela
Nadia Turincev
Written byBen Russell
Ben Rivers
StarringRobert Aiki Aubrey Lowe
Must Käsi
Rouge International
Release date
  • August 8, 2013 (2013-08-08) (Locarno)
Running time
98 minutes[1]

A Spell To Ward Off the Darkness is a 2013 experimental film directed by Ben Russell and Ben Rivers, starring Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe. It was released to critical acclaim, winning two awards, including the Copenhagen International Documentary Festival New Vision Award, and having five nominations.


Experimental ambient musician Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe undertakes a long, enduring experience living in and moving through three distinct Scandinavian environments: a commune in Estonia which he is a member of, a wild forest in Northern Finland which he explores in solitude, and, finally, a neo-pagan black metal performance in Norway which Lowe himself participates in.


Filming took place in three locations: on the island of Vormsi in Estonia, in the wilderness of the northern municipality of Hyrynsalmi in Finland, and in Oslo, Norway.[2][3] The sequence featuring the Norwegian black metal band Queequeg was filmed in a single take.[2] The band, featuring Lowe on vocals and guitar, was formed specifically for the movie. It also stars Hunter Hunt-Hendrix of Liturgy, Nick McMaster of Krallice, and legendary experimental artist Weasel Walter.[4]


The film was first shown at the Locarno International Film Festival in Switzerland on 8 August 2013. It has subsequently been shown at the Toronto International Film Festival in Canada, the BFI London Film Festival in the United Kingdom, the Thessaloniki International Film Festival in Greece (under the title Ena xorki gia na dioxeis to skotadi), the AFI Fest in the United States, the Copenhagen International Documentary Festival in Denmark, the Torino Film Festival in Italy, the International Film Festival Rotterdam in the Netherlands, the Vilnius International Film Festival in Lithuania (under the title Kerai nuo tamsos), the New Directors/New Films Festival in the US, the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in the Czech Republic, the New Horizons Film Festival in Poland (under the title Zaklecie, ktore odpedza ciemnosc), and the Three Rivers Film Festival in the US. It has also seen release in Barcelona, Spain (on 6 November 2014), and New York City, US (on 5 December 2014), and is due to be released in France on 18 March 2015.[5]


The film received a score of 88% out of 16 reviews on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes.[6]

Reviewing the film for The New York Times, Ben Kenigsberg called the film "accessible and often hypnotic on an intuitive level."[1] Alan Scherstuhl of The Village Voice praised the first two-thirds of the film but disliked the final segment, criticizing its focus on "a shriek-y metal band that plays on and on."[7]

Organization Award category Recipients and nominees Result
Copenhagen International Documentary Festival[8] New Vision Award Ben Rivers
Ben Russell
Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival[8] Silver Eye Award for Best Feature Documentary Ben Rivers
Ben Russell


  1. ^ a b Kenigsberg, Ben (4 December 2014). "Feeling Your Way Toward Utopia: Metaphysical Moments in 'A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness'". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 January 2015.
  2. ^ a b "A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness". IFFR.com. 2014. Retrieved 6 January 2015.
  3. ^ "A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness Filming Locations". IMDb. Retrieved 6 January 2015.
  4. ^ "Queequeg - Encyclopedia Metallum: The Metal Archives". metal-archives.com. Retrieved 10 September 2017.
  5. ^ "A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness Release info". IMDb. Retrieved 6 January 2015.
  6. ^ "A Spell To Ward Off The Darkness". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 6 January 2015.
  7. ^ Scherstuhl, Alan (3 December 2014). "Artflick A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness Lets You Pick the Meaning". The Village Voice. Retrieved 6 January 2015.
  8. ^ a b "A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness Awards". IMDb. Retrieved 6 January 2015.

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