Häxan (1922)

haxan poster 1922 movie
7.0 Overall Score

Great visuals for the time

Silent documentaries are tough

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Häxan

Studio:  Svensk Filmindustri

Genre(s):  Silent/Documentary/Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror

Release Date(s):  September 18, 1922

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated

haxan witches demons coven

Ain’t no party like a witches/demons party!!!

Witches have been a cause of concern for humanity.  In the Middle Ages, the rise in witchcraft and those who feared it meant life or death.  Those targeted by witches could fall ill and die while those labeled as witches faced torture and death at the hands of the accusers.  Is the Devil responsible for the evil in the world or could it be tied to something else?  Despite changes in science and belief, has any of it really changed?

Directed by Benjamin Christensen, Häxan (also known as Heksen or The Witches) is a silent documentary fantasy-horror film.  The Dansh-Swedish film was met with controversy upon its release in some countries including the United States for its portrayals of sexuality and nudity and a shorter reedited 1966 version known as Witchcraft Through the Ages was released.  The film was critically acclaimed and received a remastered Criterion release (Criterion #134).

Häxan is just weird.  It is portrayed as a documentary but has dramatic storytelling throughout the film.  The imagery is scary and the stories are both ironic and tragic.  Silent films are tough, but silent documentaries seem even harder.

haxan witches kiss devils ass

Step right up! Stand in line and kiss the Devil’s ass!

The story has a weird telling.  It starts out with a basic description of witchcraft, but it then goes into a series of stories of witchcraft to illustrate the point.  The movie is divided into chapters, but the chapters seem to be separate but also overlap at points.  The film then wraps up its themes but comparing these stories to “modern day” (aka 1922) and how psychology has replaced much of what was considered witchcraft with mental illness…but it also indicates that the treatment isn’t much better which is interesting.

The movie’s visuals are the real key to Häxan.  The film is loaded with interesting visuals that resemble a lot of German Expressionism films from the period.  The use of sets and special effects are interesting to see and it is fun to see how filmmakers tried to overcome the technical challenges of the time to try to tell their story.  It is kind of like watching a children’s book being told visually but by adults.

haxan satan director benjamin christensen

Lesson learned…the Devil isn’t above clubbing you in the head

Silent films are also sometimes hard to keep focus on due to the acting for those not used to them.  Like almost all silent movies, the acting is over-the-top, overly expressive, and must convey all the words and emotions.  What is fortunate for Häxan is that this breaches the language barrier that many foreign language films have when being translated into English since there is essentially “no language” making it a universal film.  Director Benjamin Christensen appears in the film as the Devil…which is also a bit odd.

Häxan is somewhat of a tough watch and is best watched in pieces.  Overall, it is good, but it is sometimes a challenge.  It is like watching a YouTube documentary without any sound and the classic score they do use gets old at points.  The film is definitely worth seeing in a historic sense and for the crazy visuals…while remembering when it was made.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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