Thursday, October 29, 2009
31 Days of Halloween - Day 29 - Movie
An incredibly stunning visual treat, "Haxan" (1922) is a multi-part silent documentary on the history of witchcraft through the time of the film's making. Beginning with an exploration of devils and pagan gods, and ending with a a segment equating hysteria and mental illness with similarities to alleged symptoms indicative of witchcraft, the long middle segments follow a narrative thread depicting traditional stories of witches as wise healers as well as flying, devil associating, black arts practicing hags which leads into the mania of the Inquisition and its obviously one-sided witchcraft accusations and tortures which could not be defended against by anyone accused of being a witch, or aiding a witch. The two end segments are the weakest portions of this film, with the middle section being visually arresting and emotionally engaging. Everything from the art direction, costumes, and mise en scene is gorgeous and lends the movie an air of realism, as if someone went back a few centuries to document these events on film. The scenes depicting the witches interacting with devils and flying over the countryside in particular are just gorgeous and strange to behold.
This movie is well worth seeing, especially this time of year. There's also a shorter version of the movie which replaces the title cards with voice over narration by William Burroughs. I've seen this movie three times now, but haven't tried that version of it yet. I can see how an audible narrator would be preferable in certain portions of the movie, particularly the beginning, but could also see how it would be a distraction and could take away from the strength of the visuals on their own terms.