The Link-Up Spell: Unveiling the secrets of A Dark Song
Grab your Grimories and wands, fellow adventurers. Today we are crossing the Abramelin path with this review of the horror and drama film: A Dark Song.
Unlike many movies of its kind, A Dark Song is not a one tricky-pony. Rather than sinking the narrative with floods of fantastic moments, writer and director Liam Gavin dove into a rather unexplored territory. Starting with a very effective premise, the Irish filmmaker drifted towards the old practices of occultism to draw us into a perpetual hazy mystery. And, while it could be a lethargic experience for some, the journey crafted in this film is realistic at its best with its magical concessions.
We follow the story of Sophia (Catherine Walker) a grieving mother who is desperate to contact once more her deceased young son. Her last wild card is a man called Joseph Solomon (Steve Oram), a supposed expert on occultism with a really miserable mood. After a pair of disagreements, Solomon decides to take the job and begins the preparation for a long, grueling ritual which will last one entire year inside a mansion.
Beginning with the very first scenes together, the tension between both characters is greatly portrayed by the two actors. The protagonist’s stubbornness traps her inside an isolated house with Solomon conducting the occult practices as her personal director. Casting aside the protagonist’s desire, there is a realistic darkness inside her, a kinetic grief that never lets her go in the whole process, built from the unexpected tragedy. If Sophia’s character is impressive, Solomon is also captivating, thanks to his sardonic personality and the proven knowledge he has in his secret faith system. In fact, sympathies and disgust are directed toward these two at the same pace, thanks to the flawed, and real, nature expressed in dialogues and actions.
These lead performances go masterfully between the mundane encounters to the fascination of the scattered findings, and Gavin’s directing throws them inside the claustrophobic walls of a lonely Welsh mansion to squeeze out all those emotions, in parallel to the crawling bleak atmosphere of the script.
This reveals the truth behind A Dark Song. After peeling the layers of the visual languages of horror, you’ll find a tale of the acceptance of loss and death. At each step, the movie distances itself from pure suspense to condition the viewer toward the psychological damages of Sophia and Solomon. Motivations and understandings move by new discoveries, and the understanding they have of each other is always changing, just like their expectations of the magic they are practicing.
The result is a true manifestation of the power of the human psyche, constantly shaking the characters with frustration. However, in the end, awe conquers, faith conquers, love conquers and death conquers in the complete circle of life. All of this is exhaled through the magnificent script, honest acting and competent cinematography.
Magic: the third character in A Dark Song
Solomon in A Dark Song’s magical framework is inspired by The Book of Abramelin, a Kabbalistic grimoire written between XIV and XV century by a Jewish German magic scholar named Abraham Von Worms.
The long ritual described in the book, and later adopted in the film, was taught to Worms by the magician Abramelin in the lost city of Arachi, Egypt. The highly detailed system was decoded by the author, and he passed the knowledge to his son, Lamech, who compiled it as the “Operation Abramelin”.
Like it happens in the movie, the ritual must be done in one year. The preparations include a stark lifestyle, a daily prayer regime and the privations of all earthly pleasures for the safety of the practitioner. The goal of this hard exercise is to summon the “Holy Guardian Angel”, a personal spirit knot with the magician’s soul to gain occult knowledge and spells.
After the first encounter with the Holy Guardian Angel, the summoner must evoke the four Princes of Hell and the eight Sub-Princes to pact an Oath of Allegiance with them and bind them to supposedly cast out the negativity inherent in his or her humanity. The magician will also gain some familiar spirits that could be employed as spells with a set of magical word-square talismans that trigger their powers, which include invisibility, treasure finding, spiritual protection and flight.
The Kabbalistic nature of the Abramelin teachings gives the ritual a more benign edge. The author is rooted with the accountability of the Jewish God, and even differentiates the good from the bad spiritual beings that could appear throughout the “Operation”, but, also claims the result of it could change depending on the will of the magician. Finally, the Book of Abramelin was a direct inspiration for the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and the Thelema system of Aleister Crowley.
In A Dark Song, the ritual is portrayed vividly and the repetitive nature of the intricate details of each prayer and location is described with absolute precision. Each room and space of the mansion is used by Solomon according to the old Grimoire, in order to produce inhospitality and an ominous feeling in each phase of the process of summoning Sophia’s Holy Guardian Angel. Natural elements and the hand drawn sigils are used to reinforce the significance of the rigor of the ritual and the religious aspect of it.
As a result, the representation of the Kabbalistic teachings of Abramelin is painfully methodical and puts every character’s movement into a suspenseful tightrope act. Practically, any mistake is a terrible loss for the practitioners, so the incomes of the occult practice set the mood and the plot pace, cutting the rational and emotional planes in two. Gavin’s work is always sincere towards the intriguing source, aided by Ray Harmon’s drone soundtrack, which goes wild when Solomon and Sophia lose control of the rites.
Fear in a pure state is a constant in the second half of the movie. The “Operation” is also a puzzle, which subsequently moves the plot, but the final result of unlocking doors is the opening of portals to someone or something unknown, whether our own reflections or other entities entirely. What lies behind our intentions and what life brings to us according to them must be one of the multiple questions behind A Dark Song. Deeply rooted in the white spectrum of occultism, the Abramelin ritual is just the device in which these characters express their scars, willing to obtain another reason to live, after all the darkness that accompanied them.
I think few movies have capitalized and understood the concept of magic as well as this title. Focusing on the humane aspect behind the occult experience, Gavin’s set a moody display of emotions and atmosphere that delightfully transmute a suspenseful beginning into a well-constructed character drama with cohesive strings towards the end. For the drama, for the horror or for the occultism remembrances, I really hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
The Link-Up Spell is a weekly Toilet ov Hell column about music, movies, books, retro video games and guaranteed Elfic nonsense. If you want to contact the author to send your material, mail us at toiletovhell [at] gmail.com with the subject “The Link-Up Spell” or message him on social media.