43 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars witches' brew
Part horror movie (years before that term came into use), part documentary, this has to be one of the strangest films ever made. Benjamin Christensen was a Danish actor and director who had previously made two thrillers, Det Hemmelighedsfulde X and Haevnens Nat, which both showcased his remarkable sense for lighting, framing and editing - and his adventurousness in moving...
Published on 15 Mar 2008 by thomas12321
3 of 106 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Absolute rubbish
This DVD is an complete insult to anybody who is a follower of witchcraft.
anybody with any sense knows that witchcraft is a pagan religion not too different from the druids and therefore hugely predates christianity so how can it possibly be satanic. In my view not even worth a viewing.
Published on 2 May 2009 by M. A. Scott
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43 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars witches' brew,
Part horror movie (years before that term came into use), part documentary, this has to be one of the strangest films ever made. Benjamin Christensen was a Danish actor and director who had previously made two thrillers, Det Hemmelighedsfulde X and Haevnens Nat, which both showcased his remarkable sense for lighting, framing and editing - and his adventurousness in moving beyond the established basics.
Yet, nobody could have been prepared for Haxan (Danish title: Heksen). Many of the scenes were profoundly disturbing for contemporary audiences - and may still be so today. But what strikes the modern viewer is how cinematically exciting it is all done.
The camera has yet to move (Murnau's "floating camera" is still a couple of years away), but Christensen's expert framing and editing lends every sequence an exceptional dynamic quality. When choosing a subject for the camera, angle, and size, he is invariably right, giving an incredible flow to the film as a whole. There is not a dull moment - partly because the subject is so unflinchingly handled, partly because every scene is thoroughly composed.
There is some magnificent "special effects" work using double exposure and very believable models - including a broomstick ride to Bloksbjerg and the witches' sabbath (compare the flying sequence in Murnau's Faust!)
The acting is very fine with very little of the mannerisms we associate with silent films. Some of the actors were to have long and distinguished careers in Danish film and on the stage - among them Poul Reumert, Ib Schoenberg, Elith Pio, Clara Pontoppidan.
The print used in this edition is exceptionally well-preserved, and although I usually prefer plain b/w to the tints common at the time, the warm red (at times almost sepia) and deep blue used here, look magnificent.
Regarding the soundtrack, we are spoiled for choice: there's a newly recorded arrangement of the music played at the Danish premiere (using material from well-known compositions); then there's a very effective ambient soundtrack by electronic group Bronnt Industries Kapital; finally a score composed by Geoff Smith, performed by him on the hammered dulcimer. On future viewings, I'll be listening to either Bronnt or Smith - the dulcimer score perhaps being the most interesting in the long run.
This DVD is highly recommended to anyone interested in either silent films or the horror genre or both.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Technical masterpiece, but strange...very strange,
"Häxan" is one of the strangest films I have ever seen. Produced in 1922 by the Danish film director Benjamin Christensen, this film is a dramatized documentary about the history of witch craft up to the present day. Without any background knowledge, I watched the film and for a long time I was puzzled as to why this film was made. Now I understand that Christensen wanted "to create a whole new film rather than an adaptation of literary fiction", making it so out of the ordinary.
Although the acting is natural, a number of scenes seem to be a straight from a fairytale (the broomstick ride), while other scenes seem almost random at first glance (the somnambulist). Yet, in hindsight the film was worthwhile watching, even if it was only for the fantastic devil character played by Christensen himself. It seems odd for viewers today, but the film was banned for many years in a number of countries, because of its explicit and blasphemous nature.
From a technical point of view, I was impressed with the sharpness of the film and the usage of (what looks to me) colour filters in a number of scenes. Even after 90 years, I think "Häxan" would stand the test of HD TV without a problem. This sharpness combined with the usage of colour filter gave me the feeling I was actually watching a colour film. This was the case especially with the scenes of the kleptomaniac. Amazing!
In my opinion, this is not a film for a casual viewer, but only for people genuinely interested in silent films or film historians. Whatever your reasons for watching "Häxan", prepare yourself for one of the strangest films ever made.
23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Masterpiece No Longer Forgotten,
A film which would have been to audiences in 1922 (fresh from the collective hysteria of World War I) what Kubrick's "2001" was to the 60s generation-- if there had been the same desire by audiences of the time to be enlightened by the still new cinematic art after confronting the world's woes. Instead, the film was maligned, banned, protested against by thousands of nuns in the streets, championed by André Breton, and finally rediscovered by William Burroughs and his circle in the 60s. Light years ahead of its time in terms of technique (Goddard did not invent the jump cut) and sincerity. The jazz music accompanying the Burroughs version fits beautifully.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Charming kinda-sorta documentary about the Middle Ages,
This is an odd beast of a movie, and rather hard to classify. It treats its subject matter; witches, devils and witch trials in the Middle Ages in a way that's part documentary, part dramatisation and part exploitation. The framing is documentaristic, discussing old world views, beliefs in magical practices, and the methods of the Inquisition. However, the extended live action sequences - mostly short, but one forming a longer story arc within the movie - entirely abandon this neutral pretence, and revel in the grotesque and often disturbing imagery of black magic, physical deformity and torture. In portraying mediaeval prejudices, the film's approach is entirely exploitative, transforming its sources into lurid entertainment. This is Häxan's great draw today - as a freakshow or pseudo-horror, it is a precursor to the exaggerated "Satanism" of black metal. Was it a coincidence that this movie was conceived in Denmark and produced in Sweden?
We are shown a little carnival of bloody horrors. Old crones brew foul concoctions in their cellar lairs, or fly to satanic witches' sabbaths in the woods. Young women cavort with grotesque devils. Superstitious townsfolk denounce their own as witches and sorcerers. The monks who run the witch trials (who could be the villains of the film) are conniving, rotten scumbags, played by the actors with relish, and the rest of the "mediaeval" figures - superstitious, ugly and weirdly dressed folks - are also simple caricatures instead of realised personalities. In fact, Häxan is less horroristic than hilariously, although sometimes disturbingly funny. Its devils with their wagging tongues and grimacing faces are lovingly-made rubber-and-fur monsters, and as we look on the actors, we sometimes have the feeling they are having the time of their lives. There is a full array of clever trick shots, reversed footage, superimposition and other neat touches which are very impressive tricks by the standards of their time. They may be old news today, but they work admirably, and the dark lighting gives the live scenes a very appropriate ambience. Here is a vision of The Darkest Middle Ages, not really accurate, but a very entertaining and popular fantasy, its images still very powerful ninety years after the film's debut. The ending, serving an ironic counterpoint, raises questions which are less and less comfortable the more we consider them - can we safely write off ancient superstition as something we have surpassed? The timeframe is 1922, but it may as well be 2012.
On this DVD, Häxan comes in two versions. The first is the 2001 restoration, a very sharp, tinted copy featuring three scores (one symphonic, two more experimental), which looks and sounds as well as a film from 1922 can. However, the disc also contains the previously better known black-and-white version, which is a good 30 minutes shorter, rather less well-preserved, but it features narration by cult author William S. Burroughs, which is nice as added value.
5.0 out of 5 stars Haxan is just the best thing to watch with whisky,
This review is from: Häxan - Witchcraft Through the Ages [DVD]  (DVD)
Having seen snippets from this film in many documentaries over the years I was always curious to see it whole. An odd little film which seems to be an excuse for showing naked people dancing in the era of silent film all under the pretense of presenting a serious history of witchcraft this film is curio delight. Five stars for just being...
4.0 out of 5 stars What a strange film....,
It's difficult to know where to begin with a film like Haxan, which challenges any attempt to tie it down to a category or description. Part documentary and part dramatic reconstruction, it comes across as a fairly fluid consideration of the medieval world view and the reasons why this led to witchcraft panics but emphasises the human cost in terms of people tortured and killed for the most fleeting of reasons. The visuals are often fascinatingly outlandish, but the performances are strong and communicate everything you need to know without a spoken soundtrack. Certainly recommended, but don't sit down and expect to be entertained for a couple of hours- this is a film which does require some effort on the viewer's part to engage with what the director is trying to say.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A piece of film making history,
I got this dvd as i had read about it in a horror magazine. It's a silent movie from 1922 and was banned in it's home country as it's subject matter was too controversial for it's time. It is a documentary about witchcraft through the ages (hence the title!) and is an interesting peek into the attitudes of years gone by and the superstions that people believed in. Obviously by today's standards, it's as tame as can be, but it's an intersting slice of film making history.
6 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars curious film but not unbiased,
I think this is a really bizarre and often horribly beautiful (or beautifully horrible) movie, especially when you think it is almost a hundred years old. But don't take it too seriously as a documentary on witchcraft. The viewpoint is so clearly antireligious that it sometimes becomes ludicrous. The real creeps in this movie are not the numerous witches and devils, not even the executioners but clearly the monks and the inquisitioners. I don't want to obscure the terrible things that happened during the Early Modern Age and the Renaissance period when the witch trials sweeped through Europe (not the Middle Ages like so often wrongly stated, also in this film). But somewhere in Häxan the director says that during the centuries this folly raged in Europe, in total 8 million women men and children were executioned. According to Wiki, scholars currently rate the number of people executioned for witchcraft between 60.000 and 100.000 (which is already appaling enough). The total number of witch trials in Europe which are known for certain to have ended in executions is around 12.000. So enjoy the movie, but for the facts find more information elsewhere.
17 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Woe Is Me, Tartan...,
It seems that everytime Tartan goes off-kilter and attempts to release a movie that isn't new / slightly controversial / Asian Horror the release date is superseded.
No warning, no press release, nothing... The release date arrives, and the DVD just fails to show up. This goes for "Haxan", a movie that I've waited years to arrive on Region 2 DVD. It was a motion picture that was pure Religious Napalm when it was released in 1922, and it hasn't lost any of it's lustre in 2007. I'd like to see another movie that attempts to dissect religion in the present-day have the same diehard mentality.
Benjamin Christensen, I bow before thee - And I hope you're happy wherever thou art (In Hell, if there is indeed a deity). Still, bravo.
0 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars i wish i could watch it!,
My dvd came in great condition,put it in and low and behold.won't play on american equipment.it scksbecause i know i'd love it
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Häxan - Witchcraft Through the Ages [DVD]  by Benjamin Christensen (DVD - 2013)