Haxan (1922) / Witchcraft Through the Ages (1968) DVD
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Directed by Benjamin Christensen
Produced in 1922
Main Language - Silent with English subtitles
Countries & Regions - Scandinavian Film
Benjamin Christensen’s film of witchcraft through the ages is an extraordinarily individual work by any standards. It begins as an illustrated lecture with demonstrations by means of engravings, mechanical models and dioramas, but before long has shifted into a film re-enactment of a medieval witch’s kitchen, with the preparation of potions and the hand of gallows’ corpse arriving in a bundle of faggots. Then it’s on to an extended witch hunting sequence in which sadistic judges torture and trick crones and young women alike into confessing participation in diabolical rituals – with these same rituals brought to life in lurid reconstructions. Throughout, Christensen himself plays the devil with lascivious, tongue-waggling relish, frightening monks, tempting wives from their beds and providing the blatantly phallic impetus to old women's dreams.
As well as providing entertainment, finding a rational explanation for the witch craze underpins Christensen’s approach, and he draws parallels between symptoms of witchery and those of 20th century ‘hysteria’. A self-reflexive commentary makes for a mix of registers in the film which a modern audience can readily appreciate
Graeme Hobbs on 12th July 2007
Author of 276 reviews
A darkly humorous, genre-defying silent 'documentary', in which witchcraft through the ages is presented in a series of dramatic vignettes that explore the contention that witches of the middle ages suffered a hysteria similar to that of modern psychiatric patients. Director Christensen presents an audacious mixture of fact, fiction, lecture and hallucinatory recreation in his one-of-a-kind film. He himself plays the devil, notably in a terrifying sequence with a monk!
Also includes Witchcraft Through the Ages (1968), narrated by William S Burroughs with a soundtrack featuring Jean-Luc Ponty.
Publisher: Tartan Video
Length: 104 mins
Aspect ratio: 1.33:1
Cat No: TVD3758
Format: DVD B&W
- Digital speed-corrected version of the Swedish Film Institue's tinted restoration
- Original Danish Premiere sountrack
- New Brontt Industries Kapital soundtrack
- New Geoff Smith soundtrack.
by Barry Forshaw on 15th November 2007
This remarkable exploration of the supernatural and religious gullibility has both shocked and entertained audiences since its premiere in 1922. Christensen’s enthusia... Read on
This remarkable exploration of the supernatural and religious gullibility has both shocked and entertained audiences since its premiere in 1922. Christensen’s enthusiastic dramatisation of the activities of witches and the devil seems (in some ways) quaint and amusing today, but it’s still easy to see how they shocked the easily offended. The film has been available in a variety of forms over the years (and was something of a hit when a William Burroughs narration was added in the 1960s), but this is its most faithful presentation -- though the Burroughs version is here, if you're curious. Hide