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Häxan: Witchcraft Through The Ages (The Criterion Collection)

Benjamin Christensen , Elisabeth Christensen , Benjamin Christensen    DVD
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
Price: CDN$ 42.99 & FREE Shipping. Details
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Häxan: Witchcraft Through The Ages (The Criterion Collection) + Faust
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Product Description

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Witchcraft through the ages is explored with dark wit in this silent classic. Writer-director Benjamin Christensen uses a historical study of witchcraft as a jumping-off point for a fascinating film that is part science, part horror, and part social commentary. This Criterion edition uses a beautiful print, a rearrangement of music from the original Danish premiere, and the original Swedish intertitles (with subtitles). Goodies include commentary by Danish film scholar Casper Tybjerg, the option of watching a narrated version without intertitles, and test shots from the film. The test shots, in particular, give insight into the early filmmaking process, as when Christensen uses his own image to try out (and reject) a flying effect. This is a worthy edition to the collection of fans of horror films, silent films, and film in general. --Ali Davis

Product Description

Grave robbing, torture, possessed nuns, and a satanic Sabbath: Benjamin Christensen's legendary film uses a series of dramatic vignettes to explore the scientific hypothesis that the witches of the middle ages suffered the same hysteria as turn-of-the-century psychiatric patients. But the film itself is far from serious-instead it's a witches' brew of the scary, gross, and darkly humorous. The Criterion Collection is proud to present two versions of this genre-defying "documentary," for the first time ever on DVD.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
By JLS
Format:DVD
If you didn't know it...Haxan is a silent movie. It is a really good silent movie too (that is if you like movies that don't have Vin Deisel rocking out your subwoofers with huge explosions). The film starts out seeminly like a documentary about Withcraft through history. The film follows that path, but is just so strange and fascinating that you will most likely forget all about the documentary part. Instead of like basic documentaries shown today on the History Channel, Haxan's historical scenes are actually acted out in true film fashion. The catch is that Satan actually is in the film (played by the director himself). Once things start flying, horned demons go out dancing, and the peasants start kissing the director's a$$ (wow...now that is a true statement about Hollywood...MADE ALMOST A HUNDRED YEARS AGO), it is no longer a documentary, it is some freaky comedy played out with an humourously lighthearted soundtrack. Criterion even went as far as to include the original shading to the film (nothing beats a red washed scene quickly switching to blue, then back to red before going into a true black and white scene). To be honest, the colour shadings get kind of annoying (even if they are true to how the film originally was). Yet, they can be easily corrected by adjusting your television set.
If you want a shorter film about Satan set to a jazzy soundtrack, there is another version of the film included on the DVD for your viewing pleasure. It is also narrated by a very famous person with a voice that just makes you smile every time Satan gets a mortal soul eternally damned to hell. Nothing beats laughing at eternal damnation while listening to an excellenct jazz soundtrack.
Basically, Haxan is a very good film if you like silent films.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A valuable seventy year old reference May 11 2003
Format:VHS Tape
Witchcraft and demonic possession pervade popular entertainment and popular culture. "Haxan: Witchcraft Through The Ages" by director Benjamin Christensen is a valuable reference because the film *graphically details* 1920's perceptions concerning witchcraft and demonic possession. "Haxan: ..." illustrates kissing the devil's arse as a sign of respect, depicts demonic skin as rough and scaly like snakeskin, equates golden showers of coins (from slot machines?) with demonic lures, and states that the inability to shed tears signifies demonic possession (I can't cry anymore?).
Updated in 1967 with narration by William Burroughs (author of "The Naked Lunch"), "Haxan: ..." is a study of ignorance, misery and poverty. The film attributes the origins of disease (including sexual dysfunction) and agricultural blight (with implied bestiality?) to witchcraft. The film discusses using a knotted cord (a modern witchcraft / Wiccan sigil) to cause male impotence and to prevent pregancy, while lager and wine goblets are dosed with aphrodisiacs. Numbness of women's backs (a reference to sexual dysfunction) is *stressed* as a sign of demonic possession. The film discusses the use of flails, spiked belts and spiked collars to purify the endangered soul by scourging the polluted body. Suspected witches are tortured both to confess their demonic possession and also to identify other witches. To escape further torture, suspected witches eagerly identify their personal enemies as practicing witches. ***The use of torture makes witch epidemics a self-fulfilling prophecy.***
"Haxon: ..." discusses 'The Burning Times' -- the inquisitions where convicted witches were burnt at the stake. Modern-day witches and Wiccans consider 'The Burning Times' a period of social and religious discrimination.
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5.0 out of 5 stars CHILLING, INFORMATIVE, and a CLASSIC! July 18 2002
Format:DVD
I'm sorry that Criterion offered both the original film (104 min.), and the later '67 re-issue (approx. 80 min.)...simply because I can't decide which is better to represent what Christiansen was trying to accomplish. Inform? He does that quite well. Chill? NOT in the original presentation...although the original print is BEAUTIFULLY tinted, and is better-framed than the 1967 reissue, it's the MUSIC that tends to lull me to sleep...the only difference between the 2 versions (note the running times) is the absence of "narrative titles" in the 1967 reissue. The music of the '67 version has been criticized as being "too jazz, too eclectic," but to me, it only adds to the madness of what the director was trying to illustrate! The scene where two men steal a corpse into their village hut (for experiments) gives me chills in the '67 version...in the "Swedish Film Institute" version...it's only a few film segments edited together.
This DVD has a ton of Extras--Benjamin Christiansen's own introduction to the 1941 re-issue of the film, outtakes, stills, etc...this DVD is W-E-L-L worth the money. Problem is, to decide WHICH version to love.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Freudian mythology.... Oct. 28 2001
Format:DVD
I bought HAXAN (Witchcraft through the ages) because I am interested in religion, have been reading the Ankarloo and Clark historical series on 'WITCHCRAFT AND MAGIC IN EUROPE' and I admire Criterion films. I knew nothing about HAXAN before I saw the Criterion DVD.
HAXAN appears to have been well restored. All the details including the orginal breaks for the seven reels of film have been retained in the 1920s version. Two versions, the original released in the early 20s and a jazzed up version released in the early 40s are included. The DVD also offers subtitles in many languages. The sound track for the 1920s version is wonderful and with a full listing of the music included -- Schubert, Tschaikovsky, and others. I was amazed with the cinematography--lighting, fadeouts, etc. This film will appeal to those interested in film making.
HAXAN seems to be a somewhat serious attempt to explain "witchcraft" via the Freudian psychoanalysis -- popular in the early part of the 20th Century. The director shows women engaging in witchlike behaviours in the "olden days" and then behaving in antisocial ways (shoplifting, for example) in modern times. He suggests their behaviour could be explained by mental problems.
The film lacks historical accuracy but this is largely owing to the sources the filmmakers used (shown in a references section). These sources perpetuated the myth that the Roman Catholic church acted alone in the persecution of people for witchcraft. Although current historical research contradicts this notion many cling to it as "truth.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Haxan
Outstanding film...the commentary was very interesting and intriguing ! Quality was great, and the music was intense too. B&W never looked so good. Read more
Published 21 months ago by TCJ
2.0 out of 5 stars ummm... yeah slightly amusing
this is really just a live action (for most part) documentary about witchcraft and all, but in terms of entertainment, it's not that great, just slightly amusing.
Published on July 13 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars The best "Documentary" EVER!
It just doesn't get any better than this. If you have any interest in the history of witchcraft, whether you are a follower, or just an innocent bystander; this movie will please. Read more
Published on March 17 2003 by djhexane
5.0 out of 5 stars Why?
This movie is one of the best I have ever seen! Why is it not available with region code 2 - if it comes from sweden??? still waiting for that edition ...
Published on April 21 2002
5.0 out of 5 stars Region 1 absurdities
I find it ridiculous that a cinematic genre that is Scandanavian in content is available only for the US and Canada (Region 1 encoding). Read more
Published on Jan. 29 2002 by peter carlin
2.0 out of 5 stars Odd curio for collectors only
This feature packed DVD has everything fans of this film could want. The trouble is, how many fans are there? It is an odd silent movie about witchcraft. Read more
Published on Jan. 25 2002 by Ingalls
5.0 out of 5 stars More "bewitching" than ever!
One of the most famous cult/horror films from the silent era, Benjamin Christensen's "Häxan" is at its devilish best on this EXCELLENT DVD release by the great folks... Read more
Published on Oct. 25 2001 by Erik Homenick
5.0 out of 5 stars Criterion bewitches with their new Haxan dvd
I have just finished watching the new Criterion dvd of Haxan and I couldn't be more pleased! I have never seen this film, but thought I would try it out, as I have always had a... Read more
Published on Oct. 23 2001 by "mutley_hyde"
4.0 out of 5 stars A Scandanavian Original Restored At Last.
What a great time to be a silent film enthusiast. Thanks to video technology it's now possible to have access to more silent films than ever before and in the best condition since... Read more
Published on Oct. 20 2001 by Chip Kaufmann
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