Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Silent, but deadly

Movie • HÄXAN • 1922
Blown away. I wasn’t sure if this picture was going to be an exclusive film buff fave or enjoyable by anyone. Now I know better. Haxan is a must see. It’s entertaining enough to keep the interest of anyone who needs to be fooled into watching something educational. Though Haxan means witch, witches should not be considered to be ‘monsters’ while in fact this is a monster movie. The monsters are the inquisition of men who tortured and burned accused witches.
“The Witch” is told in seven parts, each giving more insight into the portrayal, treatment, and history of witches and accused witches through the ages. Part I was a 15 minute lesson on the history of our relationship with the universe around us. I was drawn in immediately with the superb sets and models used to illustrate the subtitles.
Not knowing what the intent of the director had been, I was confused with the portrayal of the witches. I had earlier figured this film to be a lesson in our absurdity for our foolish beliefs. The tone of the subtitles implied how ridiculous some of the customs regarding witches were. It seems to me these men of power planted the seeds to nurture rumors and bizarre superstitions into the thorny vines of accusation. They sure “knew” a lot about how witches went about doing their nasty deeds. Boiling cat feces and dove hearts by moonlight would certainly soften anyone’s heart (while nauseating them because you put a drop in their drink). I don’t see how this would be a love potion, and I think that was the point.
I imagined those seeing this silent moving picture when it was first released as a generation of somewhat enlightened populace. Maybe they needed the nudge of this film as pier pressure to show them the ridiculous nature of their ancestors’ folly.
See Haxan for the documentary value, but don’t miss the amazing costume designs and effects. There is a particular stop-motion scene involving coins that will have you doing back flips. Benjamin Christensen certainly understood the bounds of his medium, and he stretched them like taffy.
Most impressive was the segment describing the functions of some torture devises. Near the end of this, Benjamin Christensen allows one of his actresses the honor of experiencing one for herself upon her insistence.
This Reveue de Jitters is dedicated to the over 8 million accused witches who were needlessly murdered in a holocaust that lasted for centuries.

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