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Häxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages (1922)

Häxan (original title)
Not Rated | | Documentary, Fantasy, Horror | 27 May 1929 (USA)
Fictionalized documentary showing the evolution of witchcraft, from its pagan roots to its confusion with hysteria in modern Europe.
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Maren Pedersen ...
Heksen / The Witch
Clara Pontoppidan ...
Nonne / Nun
Elith Pio ...
Heksedommer / Witch Judge (The Young Monk)
Oscar Stribolt ...
Graabroder / Doctor (The Fat Monk)
Tora Teje ...
En hysterisk kvinde / Modern Hysteric (The Kelptomaniac)
John Andersen ...
Chief Inquisitor (as Johs Andersen)
Benjamin Christensen ...
Djævlen / The Devil
Poul Reumert ...
Juveler / Jeweler
Karen Winther ...
Anna
Kate Fabian ...
Gammel jomfru / Old Maid
Else Vermehren ...
Nonne / Nun
Astrid Holm ...
Anna
Johannes Andersen ...
Heksedommer / Witch Judge
Gerda Madsen ...
Nonne / Nun
Aage Hertel ...
Heksedommer / Witch Judge
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Storyline

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 garykmcd

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Benjamin Christensens stora film.


Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

|

Release Date:

27 May 1929 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Häxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Box Office

Budget:

SEK 2,000,000 (estimated)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (1968 re-release) | (DVD) | (original)

Sound Mix:

|

Color:

(Sepiatone)

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

At the time, the most expensive film produced in any Scandinavian country. See more »

Goofs

The kleptomaniac and the jeweler enter through a door on the right-hand side of the room. In the next shot, they are standing on the left side on the room, and the objects on the shelf behind them have changed position. The shot in which they enter is flipped (look closely at the buttons on the actors' clothes). See more »

Quotes

Lovelorn Woman: Karna, can you perchance get me a love potion that has power over a pious man of the church?
Karna - the Witch: Here, young maiden, take a potion of cat feces and dove hearts, boiled during the full moon. A drop of this in a man's drink will soften his heart at once.
Lovelorn Woman: Karna, can i have an even stronger potion?
Karna - the Witch: If the maiden wishes to drive the man out of his wits for love... I have a potion boiled in May from a young and playful male sparrow. Hold your coins, maiden! First smell my ointment! This ointment is good,...
See more »

Crazy Credits

Director Benjamin Christensen personally thanks his cinematographer and art director through the opening titles. See more »

Connections

Featured in Kingdom of Shadows (1998) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Out of all the silent films I've seen, this is probably the most bizarre both visually and conceptually
22 October 2006 | by (Worcester, MA) – See all my reviews

Out of all the silent films I've seen, this is probably the most bizarre both visually and conceptually. A mockumentory and a mondo movie long before either became popular, this purports to explain the phenomenon of witchcraft as being a result of diseased and primitive minds. It provides many scenes as evidence, not to mention some scientific explaining. Its the contrast between the different type of segments that make this film the most unique and avant-garde. The scenes themselves are still among the most surreal ever caught on film. Overall, this is a very disorienting experience, possibly the first psychedelic film (over forty years before such tendencies became popular). For those reasons, it has secured status as an enduring cult classic.

I can not decide upon a single segment as my favorite. The opening explaining man's scientific and supernatural attempts to explain the world throughout the ages (complete with fascinating vintage woodcuts of witchcraft) is one of my favorites. Plus, the midnight ride of the witches on their brooms to meet up with Satan and sacrifice babies takes the clichéd notion of witchcraft to new surrealist heights. The shocking imagery unsurprisingly caused a lot of controversy. For a silent film (even for one made in Sweden and before the moral reform of cinema in the next decade), there are considerable quantities of both nudity and blasphemy. Its more of an attack on the Catholic church than on witchcraft. This is probably why it wasn't released to the states until 1968.

This isn't a perfect film by any means. Its not boring, but is slowly paced and may take two viewings to get through (this isn't recommended though). However, it is so consistently bizarre that your eyes are glued to the screen. For fans of vintage psychotronic cinema, this is a must-see as it is one of the earliest psychotronic films that I know of. It's also a fascinating avant-garde style of film-making that was a few decades ahead of its time. There's a version narrated by William S. Burroughs, but even though I am a massive fan of the Commisoner of the Sewers himself, I'd much rather watch the film as it was intended. The print on the Criterion DVD looks beautiful considering the age and the history of the film. (7/10)


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