Witches, witchcraft, and demonology are the perfect basis to making a good horror flick, but the brutal reality is much more disturbing. What a cool film, Häxan, by Danish filmmaker Benjamin Christensen is the fact behind the myth and done with such finesse. Both documentary and fiction, the film is an informative and entertaining breakdown of witchcraft throughout the ages, well, up until 1922 anyway.
The film is divided up into several chapters, the first of which contains several still shots of ancient art and explanations of the beliefs that went along with it. The following chapters are reenactments of some of these practices and the inevitable consequences that resulted. The film finally wraps up with a comparison to modern times including misdiagnosis and treatment of hysteria, which suggests that our barbaric roots were still very much alive and well in the modern medical industry at that time.
Häxan is unique and highly impressive considering the limited equipment of the day. In watching I could clearly imagine the influence this single film has had in the motion picture industry over decades. The stories are compelling, the acting superb and quite shocking considering the era it was filmed. I’ve never seen a film quite like it, truly a shame that the controversy surrounding it’s content resulted in heavy censorship and even banning of the film altogether.
On a side note, I am proud to add Häxan’s devil to the list in my sub, sub-genre of finding tongue wagging in films. Although the “bleheleleleleleh” sound is missing it is fully excusable since the film is silent.