Easily the strangest documentary I've ever seen.
Haxan also known as Witchcraft Through The Ages is a 1922 silent film made in Sweden not so much chronicling the history and changing ethos of witches and magic, but kind of a dive into more or less the oppression and tactics used to put accused witches on "trial" with some bits and ends of education on practices of witchcraft. And it's all done in a very surreal way, the film is split into 7 parts but the title cards a staple of silent cinema are written like the actual director is talking to us the audience, about how he found information and conveying it through the miracle of film. He even levels the fourth wall not once or twice, but thrice! Showing footage of one of his actresses legit submitting to thumbscrews and even cracking a joke about it, one of his actresses playing several roles in the last section of film which he himself disclosed, and one of his actresses confiding in him that they have seen the devil which was pretty potent to witness. It is undoubtedly an odd juxtaposition with the soundtrack being rather cheery and upbeat throughout, with notable examples being Danse Macabre and Moonlight Sonata, when clearly the subject material is a bit grim. Speaking of grim, the set design even when set on holy ground looks very eerie and I suppose rightfully so since the majority of the film takes place in the middle ages. You get some proper old timey education in this too, about how people viewed the Earth and stars, how people found evidence of witches which.....kinda seems like witchcraft to my eyes just sayin', how individuals who were pretty much trying to further the field of science were construed as practitioners of witchcraft, and my personal favorite back in the olden times to pretty much sign up for witchery and devil worship you had to kiss Satan's ass. Yeah. So if anyone calls you a kiss ass they firmly believe you consort with Lucifer. This has been another The More You Know. They still kinda fall in that notion that witches do witch stuff nekkid, this is because most books on witchcraft were written by men. Very sexually conflicted, church going, God fearing men so instead of asking the weird girl out for a date just torch her alive at the stake to purge those sexual urges. Be thankful for the decade you were born in people. The good news is the movie does not condone witch hunts or horrific torturing of women, but merely attempts to educate with an open more forward thinking mind and I'm honestly curious how well that went down in the early 20s. It's an imaginative sophisticated film in terms of special effects, the wraith like images of witches flying couldn't not have been the inspiration for the imagery of Night On Bald Mountain from Fantasia, all the costumes for the demons and Satan are obvious costumes but it still works very well in the movie, and can come off as creepy, there's even some proto-stop motion effects, talk about advanced. I'm fairly positive this is the pure bones of what people think the devil looks like, pointy ears, horns of ram and also protruding from the forehead, tongue constantly in a state of movement, all I was missing was a tail shot and he was played by the director too! So visuals are pretty strong even if not prevalent throughout, and while this is probably the longest silent film I've ever seen going for almost 2 hours, I view it as a piece of history which strangely is the purpose of the film in a way, so bravo for that. I know there is a sound version with narration and a jazz score which I believe hacks the movie down to just a bit over an hour, I didn't get my hands on that one so no notes there. Overall, it's a very interesting piece of cinema and history and while not scary it has something unique to bring to the table and no doubt shocked a good deal of people in 1922. I give it 3 stars, 7.5/10, new movie once more next time and not a horror either. Boooo!! Well, you can't win em' all. So hail Santa, oh f***ing hell I spelled it wrong nevermind, and have a lovely day.
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