The Condenser

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Haxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages

Sometimes, seeing the annual parade of Halloween revelers decked out in Transformers, Dora The Explorer or Sexy Frog costumes makes us feel like the spirit of the season is getting a little diluted. It's all just so darn commercial. If you're looking for something with a little more soul - that old-time religion, so to speak - then look no further than Haxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages, a wonderful Swedish silent film from 1922.
The picture examines witchcraft from a surprisingly modern perspective; its hypothesis is that the behavior that lead to people being killed as witches was, in fact, the result of psychological disorders and not supernatural interference. Sounds like that would make it kind of a downer, huh? Hardly! It becomes quickly apparent that the filmmakers were having a lot of fun portraying scenes of occult perversity, and their thesis only occasionally intrudes on the merriment. The special effects are truly remarkable, the art is gorgeous and several of the scenes are still rather disturbing. Watch it with the lights out, and try substituting your own music -- we found the soundtrack of the Criterion edition, though period-accurate, to be relentlessly jaunty.

Oh, and best of all? It's currently streaming for free over at

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