Entertainment » Movies


by Greg Vellante
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Tuesday Nov 5, 2019

Having always been fascinated with the Salem witch trials and general history of witch hunts in America and across the world (no, Donald, not THAT witch hunt), Benjamin Christensen's "Häxan" is an immensely engaging affair. Staggeringly ahead of its time, the 1922 work blends elements of both documentary and horror to scrutinize how superstition and misinterpretation of mental illness led to the historical hysteria surrounding supposed witchcraft and the demonic.

The film begins as a scholarly dissertation with anecdotal evidence including paintings, photographs, and large scale models. It proceeds to become a series of vignettes and takes on a more horror-based approach, blending dreamlike sequences with images of Satan (played by Christensen himself). Continuing on this course, the filmmaker continues to examine his established curiosities with a flair for cinematic discomfort. At the time of its release, the film was banned from the United States and heavily censored in other countries due to its graphic depictions of nudity, torture and sexual perversion (keep in mind, this was the early 20s and the standards of modesty were far different when contrasted to today).

It's evident the film was heavily researched by Christensen, and you can dig into much of the film's rich history through its new Blu-ray release by The Criterion Collection. Presented in a new 2K digital restoration, cinephiles will love learning more about this seminal work through an audio commentary from 2001 with film scholar Casper Tybjerg. There is also a captivating featurette from 2001 entitled "Bibliothèque Diabolique," which showcases photographic evidence of Christensen's historical sources. You'll also enjoy two essays included with the Blu-ray release, one by critic Chris Fujiwara and one by scholar Chloé Germaine Buckley. Additional bonus material includes:

• Music from the 1922 Danish premiere, arranged by film-music specialist Gillian B. Anderson and performed by the Czech Film Orchestra in 2001, presented in 5.0 surround DTS-HD Master Audio on the Blu-ray and in Dolby Digital 5.0 on the DVD
• "Witchcraft Through the Ages" (1968), a seventy-six-minute version of "Häxan" narrated by author William S. Burroughs, with a soundtrack featuring violinist Jean-Luc Ponty
• Director Benjamin Christensen's introduction to the 1941 rerelease
• Outtakes

Criterion Collection Blu-ray

Comments on Facebook