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With: Maren Pedersen, Clara Pontoppidan, Elith Pio, Oscar Stribolt, Tora Teje, John Andersen, Benjamin Christensen, Poul Reumert, Karen Winther, Kate Fabian, Else Vermehren, Astrid Holm, Johannes Andersen, Gerda Madsen, Aage Hertel
Written by: Benjamin Christensen
Directed by: Benjamin Christensen
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 87
Date: 09/17/1922

Häxan (1922)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Witch Digging

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Directed by Danish filmmaker Benjamin Christensen, this bizarre silent film begins as a documentary about witches but turns into a real, honest-to-goodness horror film with scary images of devils, possessions, evil spells, and more. Häxan (1922) is perhaps one of the earliest attempts to break the rules, mixing fact, fiction, and opinion, and concluding with a condemnation of the hysteria of witch-hunts. In a final, bizarre touch, Christensen cast himself as the Devil. The 2019 Criterion Blu-ray release offers the full-length 105-minute silent version with music by the Czech Film Orchestra, as well as a 1968 edited version called Witchcraft Through the Ages, running only 76 minutes, and featuring music by Jean-Luc Ponty and narration by William S. Burroughs. Both are highly recommended.

Other bonuses include a commentary track by film scholar Casper Tybjerg, an introduction by Christensen, filmed in 1941, a featurette on the music score, a historical featurette by Tybjerg, and outtakes. A thick liner notes booklet includes an essay by essay by critic Chris Fujiwara and more goodies. The picture and sound quality on this one are impossibly good. (Perhaps witchcraft was involved?)

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