Friday, January 27, 2012

Haxan (1922)

Witchcraft Through the Ages.

Haxan is a dramatized documentary whose main thesis is that accused witches from history would in modern times be diagnosed with mental illness. The movie begins with a description of medieval beliefs and transitions into scenes of people being accused of witchcraft and the ordeal they faced. The movie ends with how modern times would interpret the same circumstances.

Psychotherapy was still young and Haxan does a fair job with their medieval depictions and interpretations (even allowing for a little exploitation) and any nits to be picked are allowable because of the film's age. The revelation that the witch craze was caused by a lack of understanding of the human mind falls squarely in the "well, duh" category, but that was probably ground breaking stuff back then.

The technique used to description of early beliefs in the occult was decidedly low tech. A page from a text book is opened and various features of the illustration are identified by pointing to it with a pencil. Hmmm. Suppose that works. The director wanted to get the input of experts, but they were all against making the movie.

I learned of Haxan a while ago and made a point of seeing it. Netflix didn't have it streaming, but it was available via Roku and the Internet Movie Archive private channel. I love my imperfect little Roku.

Haxan is categorized as Horror, but not by me. It's an interesting early documentary on belief in the occult. Worth seeing, and I would watch it again were I to happen across a fully restored version. But for now, AMRU 3.
"The Devil is real. I have seen him sitting at my bedside."

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