Fictionalized documentary showing the evolution of witchcraft, from its pagan roots to its confusion with hysteria in Eastern Europe.Fictionalized documentary showing the evolution of witchcraft, from its pagan roots to its confusion with hysteria in Eastern Europe.Fictionalized documentary showing the evolution of witchcraft, from its pagan roots to its confusion with hysteria in Eastern Europe.
Simply on the surface, the series of unusual visuals and believable recreations of bygone eras would make for interesting viewing. Benjamin Christensen added a strong dose of the macabre to practically every scene, even in some of the smaller details that are only noticeable upon repeat viewings. Some of it is fascinating, some of it unsettling, all of it interesting.
But there is much more to "Häxan" than a mere collection of grotesque images and vignettes. Towards the end, in particular, the commentary becomes quite pointed. It is quite easy for anyone - film-maker, writer, commentator - to criticize and condemn the beliefs and practices of the Middle Ages or of any other long past era. But it is far more of a challenge to, as Christensen has done here, point out the sometimes devastating parallels to one's own era. It is always such a comforting fiction to believe that we are so much more enlightened than past generations have been, and yet it is rarely if ever true.
Christensen aptly illustrates the point that the inability to deal with the odd, the eccentric, and the unusual in our fellow beings is a perennial failing of humanity. Each generation simply devises its own means of stigmatizing and punishing those who cannot conform. (Nor is our own generation markedly better than was Christensen's.) This feature can certainly be viewed (either in the original silent version, or in the 1960s version with some spoken narration) for entertainment value alone. But it is even more pertinent in its observations on human nature. It's an often unsettling movie, with some images that might be bit too uncomfortable for some viewers. But for all that, it's an unusual and worthwhile viewing experience.
- Snow Leopard
- Feb 28, 2005