Part history lesson followed by re-enactments with actors, this film takes depicts the history of witchcraft from its earliest days through to the present day (in this case,1922 or thereabouts). The result is a documentary-like film that must be among the first to use re-enactments as a visual and narrative tool. From pagan worship to satanic rites to hysteria, the film takes you on a journey through the ages with highly effective visual sequences. Written by
Director Benjamin Christensen originally planned to write the script with the help of historical experts, but that plan fell through after he discovered that most of the experts he had in mind were against the making of the film. See more »
The same witches fly past the screen several times. At certain points, the same witch appears on screen twice at the same time. See more »
Poor little hysterical witch! In the middle ages you were in conflict with the church. Now it is with the law.
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Directed by Scandinavian filmmaker Benjamin Christensen, Haxan' / Witchcraft Through the Ages' (1922) is a head-trippy silent film depicting black magic, witchcraft, and demonology from the middle ages to the 20th century. Shot and presented in documentary form, the film is more akin to a pseudo-scholarly lecture with moving visual aids. Not as intense or as shocking today as upon its initial release, the film is filled with nightmarish images that are certainly profane and explicit, but also humorous and downright silly.
Yes, sex goes hand-in-hand with Satan, and Christensen's flamboyant portrayal of the aforementioned character, complete with flicking, wanton tongue, drives home the point (well, that and a peppering of nudity). Unique to say the least, Haxan' is a rather weird curio of a film with some incredibly atmospheric, somewhat graphic images, esp. for that era.
The Criterion dvd includes the silent original and the 1968 re-release with an electric jazz-fusion score by Jean Luc Ponty and narration by William S. Burroughs. Burroughs' voice is a treat in itself, and the jazz-fusion score is absolutely frenetic. --- david ross smith
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