A Dark Song, currently streaming on Netflix, is a dark occultist tale of the hardships one will endure for forgiveness.
Directed by Liam Gavin, A Dark Song follows Sophia (Catherine Walker) who seeks out an occultist to help her perform a dangerous ritual to see her son again. The occultist, Joseph (Steve Oram), requires that he and Sophia be in complete isolation for the ritual, so they lock themselves in a secluded house until the ritual is complete.
Sophia is incredibly unreliable as a character. We meet her as she is buying a house and Joseph for some dangerous ritual. There is little exposition allowing the audience to get to know Sophia, so we only learn about her from what she reveals to Joseph.
Slowly, as the film unfolds, we learn little bits and pieces about Sophia, but as her lies are revealed it becomes apparent that we cannot trust her. This makes it incredibly hard to like her, despite any pity we may feel for her.
The same thing goes for Joseph. We meet him as Sophia is hiring him, but we know as much about him as we do Sophia, which is very little. The ritual Sophia hires Joseph for sounds very complex and dangerous per Joseph’s description. It’s clear that Sophia cannot do it alone and needs Joseph’s expertise. However, as the ritual wears on and the isolation wears on Sophia, we become aware at how easily Joseph could lie and deceive Sophia.
Both characters are incredibly unreliable, so without any characters to connect to, it’s hard to invest any energy into hoping they make it out of the ritual in one piece.
The ritual in question has a lot of little details. The aim of the ritual is to call upon Sophia’s guardian angel and ask for a favor. Sophia’s favor changes throughout the film as her motives become more and more clear. However, the fact that we don’t know the details of the ritual makes all the scenes blend together. There seems to be an endless string of scenes of Sophia meditating, arguing with Joseph, eating, sleeping, etc.
Just as Sophia and Joseph lose track of time, so do the audience. While this is a frustrating thing to contend with while watching a film, it helps to put the audience in the headspace of Sophia a bit more. Just as Sophia is desperate to ask her favor of her angel, so was I desperate to get to the end of the film and figure out what the point ultimately is.
There aren’t a great many scares in this film, but Sophia goes through some pretty horrific things to complete the ritual. The true horrors in the film lie in being holed up in an isolated house with a stranger. Sophia having to drink a cup of Joseph’s blood pales in comparison to Joseph tricking her into stripping and masturbating in front of him under the impression that sex magic is required in the ritual. In these scenes, our distrust – and disgust – of Joseph comes to a high point. Just like Sophia, we begin to question Joseph’s motives.
At times, the film gets dark not only in tone, but in actual lighting. Towards the end, when Sophia actual starts to see demons and other scary figures – what I had been waiting for the whole movie – the lighting makes it incredibly hard to see what’s happening. The score, however, is dramatic, haunting, and makes up for the lack of visuals due to the lighting.
Overall, this movie is one hell of a ride; one that begs to be ridden again and again only to have a different outlook each time.
There’s a lot that can be discussed about this film in terms of theme. Ultimately, Sophia’s goal is to be forgiven and learn forgiveness in return, but it takes huge sacrifices from Sophia to accomplish this goal. Without spoiling the ending, I think a lot of viewers will be satisfied at the conclusion, but I personally was hoping for a darker conclusion.
A Dark Song is a difficult movie to discuss. This film is incredibly frustrating and confusing, but at some point, long after it ended and I digested what I saw, I realized that it’s meant to be this way.