Häxan a.k.a Witchcraft Through the Ages, 1922.
Directed by Benjamin Christensen.
Starring Benjamin Christensen and Maren Pedersen.
Danish filmmaker Benjamin Christensen's Häxan is a documentary examining the history of witches and demons within medieval culture and is inspired by the director's own studies into The Malleus Maleficarum, a treatise on witchcraft by two Catholic Inquisitors which is said to have been one of the key factors in the witch-hunts of Early Modern Europe.
The film begins by illustrating the medieval view of the heavens and in particular Hell through the use of photographs, models and animation, before a series of dramatic reconstructions including The Devil (Christensen) tormenting a group of monks and a fameous, controversial sequence whereby The Witch (Pedersen) describes in great detail the events of the Witches' Sabbath. Finally Christensen looks to demonstrate how the medieval superstitions could be explained today, arguing that those accused of witchcraft may have suffered from mental illnesses unrecognised by the science of the time.
The most expensive silent film in Scandinavian history, Häxan was highly controversial due to its graphic content (including torture and sexual perversion) and was banned from release in the United States. A re-edited version running just 77 minutes and featuring narration from the novelist William S. Burroughs was released in 1968, while the full-length original is presented below...
Embed courtesy of Internet Archive.
Click here to view all entries in our Movies... For Free! collection.