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on December 11, 2016
Absolutely brilliant film that explores and dramatizes how witchcraft was viewed in medieval times in Germany and Scandinavia. Illustrates just how ignorant and brutal life could be in the environment of the murderous Inquisition and how its victims were pulled in, tortured and killed. It then extends these ignorant attitudes to more modern times (1920-ish) with the use of asylums and forced confinement. Way ahead of its time in both subject matter and film-making technique. Extraordinarily restored.
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on June 15, 2014
Nice restoration by Criterion, you almost wouldn't believe the film was made in 1922. For its time this is a pretty objective rendition of medieval witch hunt frenzy. Not very flattering of organized religion but then this is what makes this movie refreshing. The sets and acting are exaggerated probably to lend some levity on the serious subject matter. They could of done without the blue and red tinting, but maybe that was real novelty in the silent movie era and they kept this feature for posterity's sake. The version with the jazz score and Burrough's dry narration was different but not necessarily better. I also think the musical score in this version was inappropriate, but the narration did lend exposition to the story. Maybe having the original orchestral score with Burrough's droning narration would be better, if you don't mind the clash of genres. Other than that, this is a nice DVD to one's collection.
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on June 4, 2009
Häxan is an excellent 1922 silent film that depicted the practice of religion and witchcraft during the Middle Ages. In this movie, superstitious characters created unrest in what were once peaceful, European dwellings. Whenever plagues spread throughout communities or lustful temptations occurred within the clergy of a synagogue, a scapegoat would have to shoulder the blame for society's ills. The alleged perpetrator could be identified and found guilty on the basis of physical appearance. If the individual were deformed, then he/she could be deemed as the devil in the flesh; if, on the other hand, the defendant was an attractive woman whose beauty was captivating, then chances were, she would be branded a witch who enticed the sexual imaginings of many a young man.

With an effective cast who could act out the paranoid mindset that was swelling and spreading, Häxan had and still has the ability to lead viewers into witnessing some darker realms of humanity that were under the guise of spirituality. The emotion of fear, in conjunction with superstitions regarding a village's misfortunes, would prevail throughout this movie. As it would often fall in line with the edicts of those in power, namely the clerics, and as it would secure the standings of those already at the top, fear, as it would be experienced among laypersons and lower-ranking pastorates, overruled logic.

It can be argued that Häxan was a creative exposition to the adage that wrong people in power, if given the opportunity, will try to control the minds of others by keeping them poor, blind, scared and stupid. Häxan is based on a premise that a collective mindset built upon rumor, superstition and hate is highly dangerous.

Though this movie is nearly ninety years old, Häxan does have its fascinating, visual effects that were perhaps way ahead of their time. Portions of the movie depicted those deemed as the outsiders, that is to say, the pagans or devil worshippers who performed rituals that consisted of costumes, masks, and fire altars with some similarities to the pagan festivities in the 1973 movie, The Wicker Man. And it is within these ceremonial scenes that the stunning, technical aspects of the film arise.

The viewer is transported right away into a different dimension, where it is not clear if it is supposed to be an outer, spiritual world that exists or the enactment of what was in the mind's eye of the superstitious. Nonetheless, the presence of ghostlike figures and demons helped to create as stunning a heaven-or-hell dilemma as what one could possibly hope for from this film. The trick photography for enhancing the awesome spectral appearances leaves little doubt that ten years later, Carl Theodor Dreyer's use of ectoplasmic imagery in his 1932 film, Vampyr, was inspired by the viewing of Häxan.

All in all, this classic is, to say the least, a quintessential two-for-one. It is a perfect docudrama in the history of human behavior, and it is the perfect expositor of the genius of Benjamin Christensen, the movie's writer and director.
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on December 13, 2017
Haxan itself is a fascinating movie if you're interested in witchcraft and occultism. However, this DVD was a bit disappointing. It's basically made on a DVD-R and the quality is actually worse than the VHS version I have. The DVD is grainy and blurry, looks like it was ripped off of Youtube or something. I would highly recommend Haxan as a movie, but you're probably better off trying to find it on tape at a yard sale.
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on August 7, 2007
This is not what I expected at all, from reading the back of the Criterion dvd you hear about Grave Robbing, torture, possessed nuns, and a satanic sabbath, so I'm thinking a horror movie. What i got was writer director Benjamin Christensen exposing witchcraft for what it really was, mental disorders. He does this first with some dark comedy which reminded me of Jeff Foxworthy's whole bit about you might be a redneck if, however here it's you might be a witch if. It's infuriating almost, to see how ignorance and fear of anything and anyone different were proclaimed witches and tortured and murdered. If you denied being a witch then you were tortured until you basically just wanted to die, so you would say anything they wanted. Prisoners were often tricked into saying they were a witch in exchange for freedom. I got a kick out of the woman who gets tortured till she's had enough and says I'll tell you everything and starts naming off everybody that's done her wrong and how there witches as well, smart idea. In my opinion everyone that cuts me off in traffic are witches. At the end he shows how modern day (being the 20's) it is hysteria and mental disorders, which we have specific names for every disorder he shows, and not the work of witches.
There are images of horror but it's more describing the peoples fear and nothing that actually happened.
I was surprised on the internet movie database that the only genre this falls into is horror. It's a a whole lot deeper than that i believe and plays true today and every decade since.
The real horror and probably the scariest of all is the judgmental ignorance and fear by man of anything different, and in this film if there was something that couldn't be understood, well then blame it on someone that looks and acts different and call them a Witch.
History repeats itself unfortunately you could use this same film today and use witches and then at the end of the movie you could replace mental disorders with Hitler and the Jews. You could use witches and then supplement mental disorders with slavery, racism and segregation. Again use witches and replace mental disorders with "the evil doers" our president refers too. Who will be the "witches" of the next generation? That is the horror.
This is a great and important film.
**DVD Features** from back cover

Haxan (1922) New digital, speed-corrected transfer of the Swedish Film Institutes's tinted restoration
-Music from the original danish premiere, arranged by film music specialist Gillian Anderson and performed by the Czech film orchestra, presented in Dolby Digital 5.0
-Commentary by Danish silent film scholar Casper Tybjerg
-Benjamin Christensen's introduction to the 1941 re-release
-A short selection of outtakes
-Bibliotheque Diabolique a photographic exploration of Christensen's historical sources
-Still gallery
-New English translation of intertitles
Witchcraft through the ages (1968) The 76 minute version of Haxan, narrated by William S. Burroughs, with a soundtrack featuring jean luc ponty
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on October 20, 2001
What a great time to be a silent film enthusiast. Thanks to video technology it's now possible to have access to more silent films than ever before and in the best condition since their original release. For years Danish director Benjamin Christensen's 1922 controversial "documentary" HAXAN (The Witch) has been available (when it's been available) in either lousy public domain copies projected at the wrong speed or in the extremely funky edited version narrated by William Burroughs with a modern jazz score. Now with the help of the Swedish Film Institute and Home Vision Cinema/Criterion Collection it is finally possible to see the film the way that Christensen intended it. Over thirty minutes of censored footage has been restored along with original tints that make this version far superior to anything that has been previously available.

For those of you who know HAXAN only through the William Burroughs version known as WITCHCRAFT THROUGH THE AGES, it too has been included in this new release (DVD and VHS) so you can see the difference. Added bonuses include footage of Christensen in 1941 (in addition to directing he also portrayed Satan) and outtakes from various scenes. While not a great film it remains a remarkable, gripping experience full of striking images that stay with you long after the film is over. Although not a documentary in the true sense of the word, it does attempt to portray a selected history of what was called witchcraft and how it was brutally dealt with by the church. Scenes of nudity, torture, carnal lust, and flagellation helped to get it banned in several countries as well as heavily edited.

While the film is not for everyone it should be seen at least once for once seen it cannot be forgotten and now it's possible to see it restored to its former glory. Although it's great to have the original version, it's also good to have the Burroughs version as well. Another excellent job from the Home Vision people (who brought us Dreyer's PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC and Pabst's PANDORA'S BOX). Thanks to the Criterion Collection for making it available on DVD. Though here in time for Halloween, HAXAN is definitely not for kids! Even after 80 years.
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on December 30, 2015
I bought this due to the narration by William Burroughs and the subject matter. Burroughs is a great narrator, and the film did not disappoint. "Thou shalt not allow a witch to live!"
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on April 2, 2016
I've been meaning to buy this movie for awhile, but I finally got it and was very pleased with it. I watched it with my friend and we were both impressed with the special effects, the makeup, and the creative sets for being filmed in the 1920's. It would be a great film to watch around Halloween. If you watch the original version (which is what I would recommend) the film is told in 7 parts. The first part is explaining the universe with old school pictures of the solar system, then it becomes a documentary about witches and the hysteria in the Middle Ages about accusing innocent people with being in cahoots with the Devil. The music throughout the film is a little off because it's upbeat jazz music while the movie is creepy and grotesque. If you're interested in old school silent horror films about witchcraft, I highly recommend HAXAN!!!
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on September 5, 2007
Once a year, every spring, the ladies in our community have what is called Goddess Weekend. And each and every year we watch this movie. Granted, there are factual and sometimes uneasy parts of this film, but I just have to say that because it has become 'campy' it's quite entertaining for all. Even with the subtitles.... even better when someone reads them aloud, this movie is actually fun and the symbolism is just darn funny. For instance, in one part the 'devil'.... your basic horned ugly entity, has the witches lined up to kiss his butt. And the makeup on the priests is just down right scary! I have the vhs but plan to purchase this dvd even though it is a little pricey, it's worth it to me and my friends. If you are hesitant to purchase this, get a group together and try to rent it before you spend the money. This film is not for everyone and shows some really ugly old crones.
One of my favorites!
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on January 18, 2017
One creepy movie.
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