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Thread started 01/22/03 10:25am

IceNine

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MANDATORY VIEWING - "Haxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages"

I have watched this movie a few times and decided to pop it in again today to cheer me up during my horrible illness... I am currently watching various methods of torturing alleged witches and such... I highly recommend this movie to everyone! Sure, it is a Swedish movie... sure it is a silent movie too, but it is GREAT!

Buy the Criterion Collection DVD edition, as it has the original 1922 version instead of the butchered release from 1968.

---

Review by: Michael Jacobson
http://www.dvdmoviecentra.../haxan.htm

Haxan, a.k.a. Witchcraft Through the Ages, is not only a cinematic gem from the silent era, but arguably one of the most profoundly weird and disturbing pictures ever made. Swedish filmmaker Benjamin Christensen created a picture that flows interchangeably between narrative styles to tell a brief history of what we’ve come to know as ‘evil’. Where did it come from? How have superstitions and paranoia propelled it? And what do we think of it today?

A film in seven parts, Haxan opens with a series of drawings and etchings from centuries past, with descriptive title cards in between…it plays out like a documentary, or a high school slide show. By the time it breaks into the second part, we are no longer looking at real history, but re-enactment, as Christensen has brought actors in to depict other aspects of witchcraft, Satanism, and black magic.

The change is noticeable, but at the same time, we’ve already been tuned into accepting that what we’re seeing is real. It makes what follows all the more disturbing. Christensen masterfully controls some of cinema’s most striking and creepy images, including himself in a portrayal of Satan.

The development of the picture as it goes along is masterful. For example, much of what we’ve seen in the opening chapter, with pictures and narrative, comes back into play during the dramatic parts of the story. Certain things we’ve seen only in still form come to life before our eyes, reaffirming what we’ve already learned. As the film progresses into the Inquisition and witch hunt years of Europe, we witness a horrendous torture session, and later, in documentary fashion, Christensen re-visits some of the tools we’ve seen in the chamber, with explanations and demonstrations. Each segment helps strengthen and intensify another.

That Inquisistion sequence, by the way, is the longest and most intriguing chapter of the film. History has taught us that the spread of incurable diseases, mental illnesses, and general religious paranoia of the times led to the prosecution and death of more than 8 million men and women. The trials were far from just, presided over by heartless officials for whom an accusation was as good as a conviction. We witness the story of Maria the Weaver (Pedersen), accused of causing a man’s deathly sickness, and subject to the kind of torture that Christensen asks, which one of us wouldn’t confess to just about anything under that kind of duress?

The witch trials are also shown as an unending circle of death, as Maria in her confession points a finger at Anna (Holm), whose accusation had put her in the chamber in the first place. Anna resists the torture, only to fall prey to a diabolical trap at the hands of the Monks.

As a finale, Christensen looks at modern psychiatric illnesses, comparing the symptoms of hysteria, kleptomania and others to some of the events we saw depicted in the earlier parts. As Father Karras would later point out in The Exorcist, we have indeed reached an age where we no longer blame everything on the devil. Haxan would subtly argue the point…does that make the devil more or less dangerous a foe than before?

Christensen’s sense of self-awareness in the film (he occasionally refers to himself in the title cards as “I”, as well as his actors) adds another dimension of realism. He mentions Ms. Pedersen later confessing to him on set that the devil was indeed real…she had once seen him sitting on the foot of her bed.

The realism should contradict Christensen’s dramatic sense of style, but it compliments it instead. With all the light and shadow play of the best Expressionistic films, plus carefully designed and photographed sets, Haxan delivers all the punch of a good horror film…one could argue that modern films have been drawing influence from it ever since.

As a bonus on this DVD, the 1968 version of the film is also included. This resurrected picture includes a terrific and expressive jazz score and the replacement of many, but not all, of the title screens with narration by William S. Burroughs. Tightened up with slightly faster film speed and less title screens, this version almost works better as a pure horror film. I’ve known friends, in fact, who have gotten up and walked out on this version when I tried to show it to them because they found it too unsettling.

But whichever version you prefer, Christensen’s singular vision comes through with haunting imagery, surprising special effects, and an uncompromising approach to an unpleasant subject matter to make Haxan one of the most important films from the silent era, and one of a small number whose influence can still be felt to this day.
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Reply #1 posted 01/22/03 10:56am

IceNine

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Damn you bunch of silent film haters!!!

:EVIL:

Where is Aerogram when you need him???
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Reply #2 posted 01/22/03 10:58am

sag10

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Sorry, IceNine I am drawing a blank!
^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^
Being happy doesn't mean that everything is perfect, it means you've decided to look beyond the imperfections... unknown
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Reply #3 posted 01/22/03 11:03am

IceNine

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Here are some highlights from the review:

"Haxan, a.k.a. Witchcraft Through the Ages, is not only a cinematic gem from the silent era, but arguably one of the most profoundly weird and disturbing pictures ever made."

"...we’ve already been tuned into accepting that what we’re seeing is real. It makes what follows all the more disturbing. Christensen masterfully controls some of cinema’s most striking and creepy images, including himself in a portrayal of Satan."

"As the film progresses into the Inquisition and witch hunt years of Europe, we witness a horrendous torture session, and later, in documentary fashion, Christensen re-visits some of the tools we’ve seen in the chamber, with explanations and demonstrations."

"We witness the story of Maria the Weaver (Pedersen), accused of causing a man’s deathly sickness, and subject to the kind of torture that Christensen asks, which one of us wouldn’t confess to just about anything under that kind of duress?"

Referring to the 1968 version: "Tightened up with slightly faster film speed and less title screens, this version almost works better as a pure horror film. I’ve known friends, in fact, who have gotten up and walked out on this version when I tried to show it to them because they found it too unsettling."
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Reply #4 posted 01/22/03 11:04am

IceNine

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sag10 said:

Sorry, IceNine I am drawing a blank!


That's okay... silent film hater! :EVIL:

Just kidding biggrin
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Reply #5 posted 01/22/03 11:57am

JediMaster

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I haven't seen this film, but I'm damn curious now. Thanks Icenine!
jedi

Do not hurry yourself in your spirit to become offended, for the taking of offense is what rests in the bosom of the stupid ones. (Ecclesiastes 7:9)
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Reply #6 posted 01/22/03 11:57am

IceNine

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I've said it before and I will say it again (on two thread, no less), you are a bunch of film and literature haters!

:EVIL:

Swedish people don't just make good penis enlarger pumps... they CAN make good movies too, you know!
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Reply #7 posted 01/22/03 1:44pm

IceNine

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JediMaster said:

I haven't seen this film, but I'm damn curious now. Thanks Icenine!


It is certainly a great film... unique and wonderful.
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Reply #8 posted 01/22/03 2:11pm

JediMaster

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IceNine said:

I've said it before and I will say it again (on two thread, no less), you are a bunch of film and literature haters!

:EVIL:

Swedish people don't just make good penis enlarger pumps... they CAN make good movies too, you know!


Not me! I love film!
jedi

Do not hurry yourself in your spirit to become offended, for the taking of offense is what rests in the bosom of the stupid ones. (Ecclesiastes 7:9)
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Reply #9 posted 01/22/03 2:12pm

bkw

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IceNine said:

I've said it before and I will say it again (on two thread, no less), you are a bunch of film and literature haters!

:EVIL:

Swedish people don't just make good penis enlarger pumps... they CAN make good movies too, you know!

yawn
When I read about the evils of drinking, I gave up reading.
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Reply #10 posted 01/22/03 2:17pm

IceNine

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bkw said:

IceNine said:

I've said it before and I will say it again (on two thread, no less), you are a bunch of film and literature haters!

:EVIL:

Swedish people don't just make good penis enlarger pumps... they CAN make good movies too, you know!

yawn


Here's a question for you...

Do you own more Swedish movies or penis enlarger pumps?
SUPERJOINT RITUAL - http://www.superjointritual.com
A Lethal Dose of American Hatred
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Reply #11 posted 01/22/03 2:21pm

bkw

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IceNine said:

bkw said:

IceNine said:

I've said it before and I will say it again (on two thread, no less), you are a bunch of film and literature haters!

:EVIL:

Swedish people don't just make good penis enlarger pumps... they CAN make good movies too, you know!

yawn


Here's a question for you...

Do you own more Swedish movies or penis enlarger pumps?

That's like asking me if I ride an elephant to work or a kangaroo.
When I read about the evils of drinking, I gave up reading.
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Reply #12 posted 01/22/03 2:25pm

IceNine

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bkw said:

IceNine said:

bkw said:

IceNine said:

I've said it before and I will say it again (on two thread, no less), you are a bunch of film and literature haters!

:EVIL:

Swedish people don't just make good penis enlarger pumps... they CAN make good movies too, you know!

yawn


Here's a question for you...

Do you own more Swedish movies or penis enlarger pumps?

That's like asking me if I ride an elephant to work or a kangaroo.


Aha!

You have the Swedish model 2000 sure-grip suck machine, don't you!

:LOL:
SUPERJOINT RITUAL - http://www.superjointritual.com
A Lethal Dose of American Hatred
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Reply #13 posted 01/22/03 2:28pm

bkw

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IceNine said:

bkw said:

IceNine said:

bkw said:

IceNine said:

I've said it before and I will say it again (on two thread, no less), you are a bunch of film and literature haters!

:EVIL:

Swedish people don't just make good penis enlarger pumps... they CAN make good movies too, you know!

yawn


Here's a question for you...

Do you own more Swedish movies or penis enlarger pumps?

That's like asking me if I ride an elephant to work or a kangaroo.


Aha!

You have the Swedish model 2000 sure-grip suck machine, don't you!

:LOL:

redface

How do you know so much about these contraptions, huh?
When I read about the evils of drinking, I gave up reading.
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Reply #14 posted 01/22/03 2:30pm

IceNine

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bkw said:

IceNine said:

bkw said:

IceNine said:

bkw said:

IceNine said:

I've said it before and I will say it again (on two thread, no less), you are a bunch of film and literature haters!

:EVIL:

Swedish people don't just make good penis enlarger pumps... they CAN make good movies too, you know!

yawn


Here's a question for you...

Do you own more Swedish movies or penis enlarger pumps?

That's like asking me if I ride an elephant to work or a kangaroo.


Aha!

You have the Swedish model 2000 sure-grip suck machine, don't you!

:LOL:

redface

How do you know so much about these contraptions, huh?


How do you think my cock grew to such dinosaurian proportions???
SUPERJOINT RITUAL - http://www.superjointritual.com
A Lethal Dose of American Hatred
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Reply #15 posted 05/26/03 6:29pm

Blackcat

[Snip. Flame removed. Ian]
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Reply #16 posted 05/26/03 9:25pm

SuperC

bump
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Reply #17 posted 05/27/03 8:38am

Lammastide

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IceNine, I've got your back on this one. Hexan is a wonderful work.
Ὅσον ζῇς φαίνου
μηδὲν ὅλως σὺ λυποῦ
πρὸς ὀλίγον ἐστὶ τὸ ζῆν
τὸ τέλος ὁ χρόνος ἀπαιτεῖ.”
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Reply #18 posted 05/27/03 8:45am

IceNine

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Lammastide said:

IceNine, I've got your back on this one. Hexan is a wonderful work.


Do you have the Criterion DVD of it?

It is really cool.

smile
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A Lethal Dose of American Hatred
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