A Dark Song is Abramelin for muggles but worth watching
A Dark Song is a film about Sophia (Catherine Walker) who is grieving the death of her murdered son, seven-year-old Jack, who was abducted by a group of teenagers for a cult ritual.
She rents a house in rural Wales and hires occultist Joseph Solomon (Steve Oram) to perform the rite which the film tells us is the Abramelin working used to summon one’s guardian angel.
Magically the premise is pants. The Abramelin ritual is a six (or 18 month) long initiation ritual after which your guardian angel tells you how to control demons. In this film it is single focused intention. Sophia wants to use it for revenge, and Solomon wants it for invisibility.
Other magical elements are also rubbish. The magic Solomon uses is a mess of the real Abramelin, Chinese elemental magic, Crowley, with a bit of Tibetan stuff thrown in to look pretty. Abramelin does not require you to be locked in a house for six months (or seal the building with a circle to prevent you getting out).
But in an odd way A Dark Song does create an accurate depiction of what Abramelin is supposed to be – if you happen to look at it sideways.
Firstly there is the concept of pressure, hard work, dedication and a monomania which results in all your demons coming to haunt you. These cause effects, voices, rays of gold etc.
The more broken you are the more the process pours water into your cracks and freezes. The film creates this atmosphere really well, particularly as these are both broken people.
Both Walker and Oram play some messed up characters, rather well. Sophia is angry and neurotic and refusing to forgive. She shifts her own guilt for the death of her child into anger at the perpetrators spending a fortune to get rid of them. Throughout the whole working though she has intense doubt about what she is doing, and if it is working. She is unhappy to see the “special effects” because it is not guardian angel promising to kill the kids who murdered her son. In the back of your mind you wonder if all the magical events are simply the product of her mental breakdown.
Solomon is not a Crowley like magician and has little charisma. Were it not for the fact he knows his stuff, and believes it he is the sort of bog standard armchair occultist you might meet anywhere. Drifting towards superstition, he appears sure of himself, indeed appears to be mimicking Crowley in his treatment of Sophia. But soon becomes unstuck.
From an occult perspective, he has the best lines, but Oram’s performance gives you just enough to believe he might be trying a scam. When some of the magical events happen, you wonder, did he fix them?
This psychological versus objective spirit process is something that is never clearly resolved by the film’s end. Even as the credits roll you are uncertain if it was all in Sophia’s head and she never really completed the working. Certainly, she seems happier. But you can equally play it the other way and say it really was all a literal summoning where she gets what she wants.
One of the things I liked about the film was that it was realistic magic, even if the components were a little off. The people were believable. It was not an Eyes Wide Shut brand of occultism. It was gritty, direct and interesting. The results are also remarkably close to what you should expect.
The only thing I could not work out was the Title “A Dark Song” which made no sense in the context.
It is well worth watching even if it is Abramelin for muggles.