Sunday, September 19, 2004


Continuing our sporadic investigation of cinematic paganism, M. and I watched Häxan ("Witches"), a 1922 silent Swedish film that is available subtitled in English as Witchcraft through the Ages.

Released just before Margaret Murray swayed English-speaking readers with her "survival of the Old Religion despite persecution" theory, this film reflects the "enlightened" outlook of the late 19th century: witchcraft was partly ecclesiastical prejudice and partly undiagnosed "hysteria."

In its own way, its pseudo-documentary approach commits a different set of blunders than did Murray, blaming the Catholic Church for witch persecutions, when, in fact, Church courts were milder (more likely to acquit, less likely to use torture) than were secular courts--and Protestants killed as many "witches" as did Catholics, maybe more.

Parts are hilarious (the animal-demon costumes at the "sabbat"), while other parts are merely inexplicable (the two men dissecting a corpse--what was that all about?).

One online critic writes, "What makes Häxan memorable is [director/actor Benjamin] Christensen's remarkable quasi-documentary approach, which must have been awfully sophisticated stuff in 1922."

Maybe. Now, at best, it's a Hallowe'en party movie.


Blogger Jason said...

I have a version of that narrated by none other than William Burroghs! Hearing him cackle out the phrase "they kissed the devil's ass" is truly something.

6:42 AM  
Blogger Chas S. Clifton said...

William Burroughs was always my beau ideal of a dignified old age ...

Apparently several versions of Witchcraft through the Ages, with different musical scores, etc., are out there.

12:12 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home