A Spell to Ward Off Darkness

Two distinctive avant-garde filmmakers, Ben Rivers of the UK (Two Years at Sea) and and Ben Russell of the U.S. (Let Each One Go Where He May), collaborated on this three-part documentary-cum-mood piece, sharing credit for direction, cinematography, and editing. Russell’s sensibility dominates: the first section shows the influence of early ethnographic films in its inquisitive view of communal living in the Estonian woods, and the third, which shows an avant-garde metal band performing in Oslo, reflects his enthusiasm for experimental rock. Rivers’s presence can be felt most strongly in the second section, in which Chicago musician Robert Lowe embarks on a solo camping expedition in a remote part of Finland. Credit both filmmakers for the hypnotic vibe and stunning 16-millimeter photography; the camera often suggests a ghostly presence, moving with uncanny smoothness through scenes of undisrupted intimacy and natural splendor.