Häxan (released in the U.S. in 1968 as Witchcraft Through the Ages) is a 1922 Swedish and Danish horror/documentary silent horror film that explores how misunderstanding of mental illnesses led to witch-hunts. At the time, it showed a lot of graphic depictions such as torture, nudity, and perversion.
The movie consists of 4 parts:
Part 1: This part explains how people believed in superstitions and witches due to lack of understanding of various sciences and diseases.
Part 2: This part consists of a small story involving the witch Karna and the belief of the Devil.
Part 3: This part involves Anna, the wife of a ill printer, who believes Maria, a weaver, to be the witch that caused her husband's illness. When Maria is tried, she is tortured until she "confesses" her evil actions, though considering the torture, anyone would make those claims. Maria then claims many of the printer's relatives are in league with Satan so the Inquisitors arrive. Anna tries to fend them off but defending her relatives causes many to believe she is a witch herself, sealing her fate. It then cuts to a church where mass hysteria befalls the nuns.
Part 4: The final part cuts to modern times (by 1922) and shows that we have a better understanding of the mind, but at the same time, argues that we're not so different from the Inquisitors as we lock up our old and still deal with the mentally ill, only with kinder methods.
Why It Rocks
- Great settings.
- Awesome designs, including the Devil, who still looks terrifying to this day.
- A combination of a horror film with a documentary.
- Great special effects by 1920s standards.
- The ending shows that, while we better understand the mentally ill and are kinder about it, they're still a mystery and we're still not so different from the Inquisitors.
- The camera shows different tints (red, blue, or tan) which create an atmosphere for each scene.
- Great classical music, each one going great with the mood the movie is going with.
- This movie was ahead of its time with the graphic depictions of nudity, perversion and torture which were kind of taboo for the time.
- The 1968 U.S. re-release butchered the original with removed scenes and content, was rendered completely black and white, talking and a crappy jazz number.