Film

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Häxan

And then they will burn you too,
maiden,
as edification for man,
as sweet scent for God.

Häxan is a fascinating and visually gorgeous Swedish-Danish film from 1922, directed by Benjamin Christensen. It is part history lesson, part dramatization and horror story lush with imaginative imagery and elaborate production. Presented in a documentary style which alternates slideshow images of medieval woodcut illustrations with historical reenactments, this piquant silent film explores views of witchcraft and Satanism during the Middle Ages, comparing them with contemporary perceptions of hysteria and mental illness among women. Häxan draws from Christensen’s study of the 15th-century German manual for inquisitors, the Malleus Maleficarum, and from other treatises on witches and witch-hunting from the era. Christensen amusingly plays the role of the tongue-waggling Devil himself.

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