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This dismal 1922 Danish horror- documentary was a fantastic eye candy. The film is a study about witch hunts, based on the director’s study of the Malleus Maleficarum (A Latin guide about witches, written by two Inquisitors in the 15th century).
The film starts with an overview of the medieval society in the 15th century Europe and its beliefs in god, Satan, heaven and hell. Then comes the interesting part: Benjamin Christensen, the director, created magnificent dramatizations that illustrate the world of the witches through the eyes of the contemporary people. How one panicked girl so easily convinces an entire village that another person is a witch. How, by means of torment, the suspected witch claims almost all the rest of the villagers are also heretics making deals with the Dark Lord.
Christensen breaks down, through the dramatizations, the entire phenomenon of witch huntings. He shows the tools used to torment the witches and the reason behind some of the techniques, like the infamous trial by drowning: the suspected witch is thrown into the river and if she floats then she’s a witch. If she drowns, she’s not a witch. In any case, the poor woman dies. You can also see throughout the film examples of contemporary habits and manners. For instance, a monk is eating at the table showing crude manners, spilling his gravy all over himself, barfing etc.
I admire the great amount of detail put into the dramatized part of Häxan. In the witch’s hut scenes you can find tools and witchcraft instruments scattered around between piles of hay and dirt. Everything is dark. And the quality of old black & white films adds to the horrific atmosphere similar to other films like Nosferatu and The Man Who Laughs. I think the bad film quality contributes a lot to the “ancient” feeling in this film, especially in comparison to modern cinema technology. Watching silent films, if you have the patience, can be a very rewarding experience. Especially for an enthusiast of morbid entertainment such as myself.
The main idea of the film was to demonstrate how the people back in Medieval Europe lacked any kind of critical thinking skills and how easily they were influenced. And who can blame them? In these times, being a European meant following a strict set of thought and behavior. Being different or even letting others think you have anything to do with Devil worshiping (or anything that hints as going against the Church) would put you on a slow train to the stake with a stop at the local dungeon for some Inquisition fun and games.
I sometimes wonder what had changed since, if at all. Too many people still put their theist beliefs in front of rational thinking, still argue that bad things happen to people because they sinned against God, still relate morality to religion and even worse – connect lack of faith to immorality. I’m not preaching for atheism here but for critical thinking. I’m leaving atheism for another post.
This is just what I do every time I start a new blog. Yeah, it happened quite a few times. I sure hope this one will be the last. I started one 2 years ago. Lost interest after 5 posts. Now I have an ongoing romance with Tumblr. A nice place, but it’s not what I had in mind. I hope this will be the best place to settle.