Witchcraft through the ages

DVD - 2001
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In a series of dramatic vignettes to explore the scientific hypothesis that witches of the middle ages and turn-of-the-century psychiatric patients suffer from the same type of hysteria. Its a witches brew of the scary, the gross and the darkly humorous.
Publisher: [Irvington, NY] : Criterion Collection, c2001
ISBN: 9780780024588
Branch Call Number: MOVIE HAX
Characteristics: 1 videodisc (104 min.) : sd., col. (restored tinting) ; 4 3/4 in
Additional Contributors: Christensen, Benjamin 1879-1959


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Aug 05, 2017

Very interesting for 95yr old Danish silent film. Well done and actually rather creepy at times. Ahead of it's time and finally answers what the demon at the beginning of "The Exorcist" was. I would watch the original version and not the Wm Burroughs narrated shorter version with some, I thought, very strident and and distracting music.

Dec 01, 2016

The History Channel has a lot to thank Benjamin Christensen, the father of the "dramatic recreation" for. Haxen, which was to be one of a projected three films on religious hysteria, also introduced other conventions of the documentary genre, including authoritative narration and the remaking of historic objects -- in this case, torture devices -- to stimulate the audience member's senses and imagination. Considering this film was made in 1921, the acting holds up surprisingly well. The weakest section is the last: modern hysteria, which is thinly sketched. It could easily have been better; for example, the kleptomaniac could have become attracted to her doctor, and either had an exploitive affair with him, or made unfounded accusations of abuse. But we are lucky to have Haxen still with us, and still making a strong case for the human causes of darkness and evil.

Jul 24, 2016

Scoffing at age old superstitions Christensen chastises the church’s history of torturing and executing “ugly old women” but is quick to point out that in contemporary times the elderly and mentally ill are still isolated both physically and socially. Along the way he regales us with some amazingly staged visuals from a huge diorama depicting ancient Egyptian cosmology to several tinted dramatizations, some whimsical some tragic, meant to give viewers a taste of what our forefathers believed: a sorceress gives birth to several squirming grotesques, a raucous witch’s sabbath features a demonic jazz band, a convent of repressed nuns go wild, and an entire household falls prey to the Inquisition. But have we really moved beyond our primitive fears, he wonders, as a fortune teller reads her tarot cards and one of his elderly actresses swears her little prayer book allows her to see devils. Pretty heady stuff considering it was made over ninety years ago!

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