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Häxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages (1922)
"Häxan" (original title)

Not Rated  |   |  Documentary, Horror  |  27 May 1929 (USA)
7.7
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Ratings: 7.7/10 from 7,060 users  
Reviews: 66 user | 79 critic

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
Edit

Storyline

A historical view of witchcraft in seven parts and a variety of styles. First, there is a slide-show alternating inter-titles with drawings and paintings to illustrate the behavior of pagan cultures in the Middle Ages regarding their vision of demons and witches. Then there is a dramatization of the situation of the witches in the Middle Ages, witchcraft and witch-hunts. Finally the film compares the behavior of hysteria of contemporary (1921) women with the behavior of the witches in the Middle Ages, concluding that they are very similar. Written by Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

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
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The Swedish film censors required numerous cuts in the film, before authorizing its release. Among the censored scenes were the closeup of the finger being removed from the hanged man's hand, the trampling of the cross in the witch's sabbath scene, the shot of the oozing infant held over a cooking pot, a closeup of a woman's face while she is on a torture rack, closeups of several instruments of torture being employed, and a shot of a demon embracing a nude woman (all these shots have since been restored to the film). See more »

Goofs

The skeletal horse-like creature wandering around during the sabbath is clearly being moved about by a couple of stage hands, hidden under the blanket that covers it's "body". The feet of the crew member at the front of the monster are visible in one shot. See more »

Quotes

Chief Inquisitor: Listen, Maria the Weaver, did you also see the devil put his mark on the witches' foreheads?
Marie, the Seamstress: Oh, learned men, I saw the witches kiss the evil one on his behind. And the mother of Anna, the printer's wife, wished me a scalding death - that damned woman, I saw her kissing the evil one so tenderly...
See more »

Crazy Credits

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

Connections

Featured in 100 Years of Horror: Witches (1996) See more »

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User Reviews

 
One of the weirdest and most bizarre of all time
5 August 1999 | by (Atlanta, GA USA) – See all my reviews

More commonly known as "Witchcraft Through the Ages", this is definitely one of the most bizarre, visually arresting movies of all time, even nearly 80 years later. It starts out as a rather dry documentary, detailing medieval superstitions and folklore while showing ancient woodcarvings of witches and demons in various forms. Then we move on into the dramatic portion of the film. In one scene we see witches concocting potions using the body parts of corpses from the gallows. One witch walks in carrying a bundle of sticks, and undoes the bundle revealing a decomposed human hand hidden inside. Fans of "The Blair Witch Project" should take notice, especially considering that the Danish title of this film is "Haxan", also the name of the movie company that created "Blair Witch".

Director Benjamin Christensen appears as a leering, tongue-wagging Satan, with very realistic makeup. The witches are shown with the Devil and his minions performing various acts of sacrilege and perversion that must have been extremely shocking at the time the movie originally appeared, and would be offensive to many people still. The film was banned for many years because of the depiction of these acts (not to mention the occasional nudity), as well as sacrileges performed by nuns and monks. There are some stop-motion animation sequences (pre-Harryhousen, no less) that are very good, especially for the time. This is a difficult movie to describe. It really is something that you'd have to see for yourself.

The version I am reviewing is actually the re-issue from 1966, with a dubbed-over narration by beat novelist/junkie William Burroughs, and a modern, jazzy score featuring Jean-Luc Ponty. I enjoyed Burroughs' narration quite a bit, but oftimes the music is annoyingly inappropriate. Sometimes it works very well, but most of the time I was wishing for a standard orchestral, or vitaphone, score. A Klezmer score, even, would have been very effective. There are a few different versions available, some with subtitles and an orchestral score. Maybe one of these days they'll come out with a version featuring the Burroughs narration along with a more appropriate orchestral score. That would be perfect. As it is, this an impressive, compulsively watchable film that still goes further than most dare to go, even in these much more permissive times.


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