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A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness

Ben Rivers, Ben Russell
Estonia, France, Germany 2013 / 98’

An idyllic commune on the Estonian island of Vormsi. Solitude in the Finnish wilderness. A trance during a heavy-metal concert in Norway. The anonymous hero (played by musician and artist Robert A. A. Lowe, also known as Lichens) is searching for seclusion in the antipodes of capitalist Europe. His silent journey is like the spell of the title, liberating him from the clutches of modernity. He abandons the theater of everyday life: a roof above his head, the post-hippy community whose members can no longer live without their laptops, and language, which is replaced by ritual screams on stage. In their first feature-length project, Ben Rivers and Ben Russell, two experimental-film nomads, question whether it is possible for a Walden-like utopia to exist in the 21st century. Between persistent silence and purifying noise, in long, hypnotic scenes (recorded on 16 mm film), they find the key to being a hermit in modern times. This is a fascinating combination of an ethnographic documentary and visionary cinema, reminiscent of Chris Marker’s memorable work Sans soleil.  

Mariusz Mikliński


CPH:DOX 2013 – New:Vision Award, Torino Film Festival 2013 - Best Film for Internazionale.doc

Ben Rivers

A filmmaker and artist, Ben Rivers was born in 1972 in Somerset, England. He studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Falmouth, where he concentrated on photography and 8 mm film. He ran an avant-garde cinema for 10 years in Brighton, which is where he met director Ben Russell in 2006. As part of the We Can Not Exist in This World Alone project, they jointly presented their films in Australia and New Zealand, among other places. His feature-film debut, Two Years at Sea, won a FIPRESCI prize in the Orizzonti section at the Venice Film Festival in 2011.

Selected filmography

2006  This Is My Land (short)

2008  Ah, Liberty! (short)

2009  I Know Where I'm Going (short)

2011  Slow Action (short)

2011  Dwa lata nad morzem / Two Years at Sea

Ben Russell

Born in 1976, Ben Russell is an American experimental filmmaker, curator, traveler, and visual artist. He studied Art-Semiotics at Brown University in Providence, where he ran a niche cinema for years. In 2009, he earned acclaimed for his feature-film debut Let Each One Go Where He May, which he filmed in Suriname with the help of a grant from the Guggenheim Foundation. He is interested in contemporary rituals and the language of cinema. Russell’s work can be seen at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, among other places.

Selected filmography

2009  Let Each One Go Where He May

2011  Trypps #7 (Badlands) (short)

2011  River Rites (short)

2013  Let Us Persevere in What We Have Resolved Before We Forget (short)

Related articles

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Cast & Crew

director Ben Rivers, Ben Russell
screenplay Ben Rivers, Ben Russell
cinematography Ben Rivers, Ben Russell
editing Ben Rivers, Ben Russell
music Veldo Tormis, Queequeg, Robert AA Lowe
cast Robert AA Lowe
producer Julie Gayet, Nadia Turincev
production Rouge International (France)
sales Rouge International
language English
colouration colour