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
To achieve the scene in which the witches are flying over the roofs of the town, Benjamin Christensen and his cameraman Johan Ankerstjerne photographed a miniature town (with each house about 2 meters in height) on an enormous turntable, which operated manually and took the strength of 20 men to operate. Then, several costumed actors were photographed on broomsticks against a black background. To make the heavy costumes ripple in the "wind" Christiansen brought in an airplane motor. A total of 75 witches were photographed, each individually, and a special optical printer was built by Ankerstjerne to put them together (only about three of four appear on the screen at one time). The construction of a model town was decided upon after test footage proved the original idea of shooting from a movie train was a bad one, as too many modern structures, not to mention telephone poles and wires, were unavoidable. The test footage survives and is superimposed with Christiansen seated in a chair, acting out the part of a witch. 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 »
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...
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Re-released in 1941 in Denmark, with a filmed introduction by director Benjamin Christiensen, in which he explains the film. Though the reissued version does use some intertitles for the dramatic scenes, they use wording that is often very different from the intertitles of the original 1922 version. See more »
Imagine Tod Browning and Jean Cocteau making a film together and you might begin to get an idea of what you'll see in this film. It's rather disjointed in its storytelling but who cares? Where else can you see witches kissing the ass of Satan, boiling non-baptized babies, and giving birth to demons? Not to mention getting a full tour of the state-of-the-art in medieval torture devices! The film is really no more a documentary than "The Blair Witch Project" but certainly in the 1920s it must have been considered as such. Today, it makes for great Halloween viewing, giving us a chance to re-live the chilling legends that kept us afraid of the dark as children. The otherworldly glow of 1920s cinematography will retain each creepy image in your mind like musty cobwebs. A must-see for classic horror fans!
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