A Dark Song

It is difficult to find interesting depictions of the practices of the WET in film. Perhaps my favourite is the Hammer production of “The Devil Rides Out” with Christopher Lee, who played a large part in bringing Dennis Wheatley’s book to the screen, to the extent of researching in the British Museum. You can read more of the details here. I view it as exaggerated fun, in much the same way as all upper-middle-class households have regular murders solved by little old ladies.

Another film I enjoy is Polanski’s “The Ninth Gate” – it is clumsy and silly and melodramatic but there is a genuine gnostic urge to seek beyond the confines of this world.

Friends pointed me in the direction of “A Dark Song“.  “It has something to do with Kabbalah,” they said.
Well no, it has absolutely nothing to do with Kabbalah. My initial feeling was not to review the film, because there is an aspect to it I disliked intensely, an aspect I can only describe as “abusive mansplaining”. A man, the magician Joseph Solomon, spends a lot of time shouting at a woman called Sophia. It creeped me out. Occult forums are full of shouty, sneery guys of vast attainment, and while the film might have been true to type, I did not enjoy that aspect of it. But I slept on it and I changed my mind.

The intriguing aspect is that it is based around the central premise of the grimoire of Abramelin,  which is to use seclusion and piety over an extended duration to gain the Knowledge and Conversation of one’s Holy Guardian Angel, and so command the Princes of Evil to gain the usual material rewards. The couple seal themselves in a house in a remote corner of Wales to carry out the ritual. Most of the detail is invented, a pastiche of WET, Tantra, and cool-looking random shit from everywhere. There is the pervasive influence of Crowley’s descriptions of the peripheral side-effects of the ritual, which he began in London and continued later in Boleskine, and for this reason most reviewers see it as a horror movie.

There is a psychological aspect that intrigued me. One of the saddest aspects of the story of Merlin is his sequestration and destruction by the Lady of the Lake, who shuts him away to gain his knowledge and power. I could not stop thinking of this, because Steve Oram, who plays Joseph Solomon, bears a passing resemblance to Merlin in Boorman’s film Excaliber.

I won’t say more than this. The film is technically good, with an excellent score. If you want to know a little more about my views on the Abramelin ritual, you can find them in “The Hermetic Kabbalah“.