arthouse

[Movie Review] A Dark Song (2016) ★★★★★

Sophia and Joseph performing a ritual in A Dark Song 2016

A Dark Song is a beautiful dark, intense and intimate tale of grief, guilt and redemption.


A Dark Song is a supernatural occult horror with a dark and stylish atmosphere. It’s a slow burn that takes its time to develop the characters and fully understand them while they undertake a dark ritual. They are fleshed out in an emotionally gripping way that is shown through the rituals and their intimate but strange and unsettling relationship. 

It’s definitely not a film for everyone, while it explores human existentialism and human actions through the occult in a very slow but intimate way. But the end is more than satisfying and delivers a twist full of horror and redemption.


Plot

Sophia rents an isolated house in Wales and hires occultist Joseph Solomon to perform the ritual of Abramelin. By means of symbols, purification, and rituals they have to perform a ritual to summon her Holy Guardian. He can grant her one wish. Her little son Jack has died and her deepest wish is to talk to him once more. But Sophia isn’t completely honest which has great consequences for the ritual and their own safety.


Why you should watch it

A Dark Song is an intense and intimate take on grief, guilt and the search for redemption. While the film takes place in the house itself and with only two characters, it’s a tour de force of both actors to carry the story and to accomplish this tale in a very sincere way. 

The rituals and their life experiences are the elements that bond them. Both are scarred by life, feeling lonely and are willing to go to extreme lengths to achieve their goals, while both are being stubborn and persistent. Sophia is most determined and is the motivation for completing the ritual and for the plot of the film itself.

The ritual is a journey, it’s not the summoning of the Guardian alone that enables her to talk to her dead son, but her insights of herself. This journey is the key element of the film, creating a very intimate view on Sophia. The focus is not on the ritual of Abramelin itself, it merely serves as a symbol and conduit of their emotions. Especially those of Sophia. The rituals aren’t explained, only merely told by Joseph what is necessary for Sophia to perform them and for the viewer to understand what they are doing and namely why. 

Both Sophia and Joseph aren’t very likable people. Both damaged, Sophia is a lier and holds back, while Joseph takes advantage of her vulnerability and is cruel and harsh.  Nonetheless they can relate and need each other to finish the ritual. That makes the film even darker. But this cruelty is necessary to achieve the end goal and it’s her journey full of pain and suffering that allows her to admit the truth to herself. It’s a very well-crafted journey into her psyche and human emotions. 

The film is shot in a beautiful but simple style. It’s often dark, the house is somber and dark and in a state of disrepair, and is a reflection of both characters. The drawings on the floor of the squares and circles for the ritual, the lighting and the music intensify the mystical dark atmosphere. The air is full of a foreboding and ominous vibe that lingers on until the last scenes, where the utmost dark and light are shown to Sophia in its full glory. 

In the end we find out the horrible truth of Jack’s death and about Sophia’s real motivation. It’s heartbreaking and tragic and results in a waking nightmare that is wonderfully filmed. Whereas the Guardian is a beacon of light and love. 

A Dark Song addresses very heavy themes that are handled in a very sincere way. Feelings of guilt, and grief and revenge go hand in hand, and are feelings of penance that, if one is willing, can result in redemption and forgiveness. The feelings of revenge are complex and not aimed at the culprits but at herself as well, turning the ritual in a self-punishment, which makes it all the more intense and realistic. It’s realistic, raw, and ruthless but in the end redemption is achievable if one really seeks it.


My favorite part

I really was amazed by the ending. It’s an ending that will polarize viewers, but I loved it. After so many ordeals in the house, Sophia finalizes the ritual resulting in real scary horror that is quite unexpected and finally it leads her to her Guardian. Well, that is an amazing wonderful sight that feels somewhat out of place but at the same time it is breathtaking and greatly imaginative. It’s a daring ending and therefore all the more outstanding and stunning. 


Ratings

Rating: ★★★★★

Epic factor: ★★★★☆

Scare factor: ★★★☆☆

Gruesome factor: ★★★★☆

Originality factor: ★★★★★


Cast and crew

A Dark Song is directed and written by Liam Gavin. It stars Catherine Walker (Sophia) and Steve Oram (Joseph).

Duration: 99 minutes. Music by: Ray Harman. Cinematography: Cathal Watters. Edited by: Anna Maria O’Flanagan. Produced by: David Collins, Tim Dennison, Cormac Fox. Production company: Samson Films, Tall Man Films. Distributed by: IFC Midnight, Kaleidoscope Film Distribution.


Check the trailer below