Sunday, September 27, 2009

16. HAXAN (1923)

Running Time: 104 minutes
Directed By: Benjamin Christensen
Written By: Benjamin Christensen
Main Cast: Elizabeth Christensen, Astrid Holm, Karen Winther, Maren Pedersen, Ella La Cour


After a short break from my journey, I'm back on the road, finding my next film Haxan on YouTube, and being less than thrilled with the outcome of it.
The film is broken into seven chapters, each exploring the world of witchcraft and different notions and ideas that surround it.

Haxan begins with the director's narration (in title cards, of course) showing us various pictures of the preconceived notions and ideas of Medieval and Renaissance era scholars. We're showed drawings of what these scholars thought hell, devils and witches looked like. We then jump into the reenactments, as we're shown a woman who goes to a witch in hopes of procuring a love potion so that she may make a man fall in love with her. It shows her going to the with a second time, getting a stronger potion and then feeding it to the man, in which, afterwards he chases her around the table before catching her and loving her up.

The major part of the film, begins in the third chapter and tells the tale of a man who is struck by dizziness and his family, who are convinced that he must've been cursed by a witch to have such an ailment. They come across a woman, who they believe to be a witch and bring her before the council of the inquisition judges, a group of monks, in the Middle Ages, who found, tortured and eventually executed witches or women who were thought to be bewitched.

The final chapter of the film, and in my opinion, the most interesting, the director tries to make the connection between women who were accused of witchcraft in the Middle Ages and women in present day who are mentally ill. For example, mentally ill people of present day, often cite that they see the devil, or that the devil has forced them to do something terribly wrong driving them to insanity, while in the Middle Ages, "witches" were also cited as seeing devils. We are also shown a somnambulist and a kleptomaniac, as the director tells us that in medieval times, these behaviors would have been thought of as demonic and the ways of the witch, and today they are thought of as psychological disorders. Basically he's saying that women who were persecuted and killed in the middle ages for being "witches", may have been, and probably were mentally ill.

The film is very different and really I can't say that it was a complete loss, because there were parts that I definitely got into. While I didn't fully enjoy it, I can't say I hated it either. The approach taken by Christensen was definitely an odd one, and in some aspects a good one. Part documentary, part reenacted film, Haxan is a piece of work that definitely belongs in the bizarre category, due in part, also because of it's subject matter. The film is also very risque for it's time, showing scenes containing nudity and torture, as well as sexual perversion.

RATING: 4.5/10 Not a great rating, but I've definitely seen worse and I may have to take this one in again someday.

NEXT UP: Foolish Wives...No smart comment, because I'm very happily married.

September 26, 2009 10:19pm

1 comment:

  1. Sounds interesting to me, I may check it out with you the next time. Wierd to hear that women that were probably mentally ill were thought of as witches back then. That is definately something to think about!


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