Häxan – an ageless social commentary

It’s been a while since I posted, I was in another lazy mood but I decided to watch this movie and it really invigurated me.

Häxan is a 1922 silent doccumentary movie written and directed by Benjamin Christensen mixed with some fiction that doccuments the beginning and evolution of witchcraft up to today and how society handles and copes with the devil and witchcraft. It is divided into several parts which depict different stories told in unique ways. For example the first part was portrayed through numerous paintings and large scale models which demonstrate some of the world views that people in the middle ages held which may sound like it’s a snoozefest but it is actually perfect for this film. In a film where the creator wants to showcase witchcraft fully something like this is needed because it fully captures how people used to think and how they imagined the world. They serve as windows to the minds of people from the middle ages.

Unlike most movies at that time (and probably even now) Haxan takes a completely different approach to this topic. Most people quickly rush to condemn (as they should) the acts of people from the middle ages who acted upon their fear and ignorance which resulted with the death of millions of people who were accused of being witches or colluding with the devil but Christensen draws the pararel to his present day and how people with the same symptoms today are treated. He compares the “witches” from the middle ages to people with hysteria today and their very similar symptoms. Where in the past a person would be hunted from the church, today she would be hunted down by the law and doctors. He takes a deep dive as to how no matter the timeline people always seem to treat the poor and old in a very similar way (granted not as extreme but still  similar).

And this is why the movie shines. It is one of the rare films that actually made me feel fear. And not because of the contents of the film but rather of the things it was portraying. I was full of fear and rage throughout the film. Thinking about the poor and innocent people that were condemed to a painful and excrutiating death because of the ignorance of humanity. Those times were hell, literal hell. Well it was hell for everyone but those in power. It was probably heaven for them. Have a woman that angered you? A woman that turned you down? No problem just accuse her as a witch. Nothing else matters, the mental gymnastic will do the rest of the work for you. It is horrifying to see how the middle ages worked. Imagine yourself in the shoes of the innocently accused. Ignorance is one of if not the biggest enemy of humanity and this is a prime example.

Christensen, interestingly enough got inspiration for this film from reading the Malleus Maleficarum, a book which I really want to read. The movie was banned in the US and many other countires and understandingly enough was the most expensive film of the Swedish silent film era.

If you watched it without knowing what year it was from you could easily have given it a few decades. It is definitely a film ahead of its time. From the amazing visuals and cinematography to the great acting the movie is nothing short of a masterpiece. It has everything that you could want from a movie and more. It is one of those movies which I feel that no matter what I say about it, it will not give it enough justice. It completely blew me away.

It is definitely going in my top movies list. The fact that it actually disturbed me so much is astonishing, especially for a movie from the 1920s. But then again it showcases something about humanity which I actually hate. The abuse of power and humanity’s gullibleness. How the elite abuse the ignorance of the common people, and that is much scarier than any horror film.

It is an absolutely fantastic film that everyone should watch. It’s much more than a regular horror film and it definitely will make you think.

Final verdict: 10/10


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