Film

Artflick A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness Lets You Pick the Meaning

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Landscapes and lyric conundrums distinguish the first two-thirds of this find-your-own-meaning artflick, which unfurls like some stranger’s life you’re half reliving.

It follows a musician played/embodied by Robert A.A. Lowe through three chunks of his life, which is often spent outside, at lakes: First he’s at an Estonian commune, where gentle hippiefolk doff clothes and announce things like this to each other: “At some point in the sauna there was a situation where everyone had somebody’s finger in their asshole.”

They talk philosophy, too, and an eager young woman speaks movingly of the power of trance music — of how bodies in a space athrob to one beat become something larger. Then Lowe is at a different lake, alone, athrob with nobody else. He rows through blueness that’s all the lovelier for looking un-fussed-over, like this is just what the filmmakers found when they shot there. Scenes of Lowe and a forest play out with a principled lack of narrative, the individual images offering back whatever you bother to put into them: For patient audiences, forging connections between, say, pale mushrooms and the penises earlier will prove edifying.

But the meditative reveries get sacrificed in the final third, where Lowe paints his face gray and takes the stage with a
shriek-y metal band that plays on and on.

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