Häxan: Witchcraft Through The Ages (The Criterion Collection)
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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.
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
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
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.
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.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
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 morePublished on Nov. 17 2012 by TCJ
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
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 morePublished on March 17 2003 by djhexane
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
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 morePublished on Jan. 29 2002 by peter carlin
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 morePublished on Jan. 25 2002 by Ingles
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 morePublished on Oct. 25 2001 by Erik Homenick
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 morePublished on Oct. 23 2001
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