‘Häxan’ Criterion Summary
Grave robbing, torture, possessed nuns, and a satanic Sabbath: Benjamin Christensen’s legendary silent film uses a series of dramatic vignettes to explore the scientific hypothesis that the witches of the Middle Ages and early modern era suffered from the same ills as psychiatric patients diagnosed with hysteria in the film’s own time. Far from a dry dissertation on the topic, the film itself is a witches’ brew of the scary, the gross, and the darkly humorous. Christensen’s mix-and-match approach to genre anticipates gothic horror, documentary re-creation, and the essay film, making for an experience unlike anything else in the history of cinema.
- On the Blu-ray: New 2K digital restoration
- On the DVD: Digital transfer
- Music from the 1922 Danish premiere, arranged by film-music specialist Gillian B. Anderson and performed by the Czech Film Orchestra in 2001, presented in 5.0 surround DTS-HD Master Audio on the Blu-ray and in Dolby Digital 5.0 on the DVD
- Audio commentary from 2001 featuring film scholar Casper Tybjerg
- Witchcraft Through the Ages (1968), a seventy-six-minute version of Häxan narrated by author William S. Burroughs, with a soundtrack featuring violinist Jean-Luc Ponty
- Director Benjamin Christensen’s introduction to the 1941 rerelease
- Bibliothèque diabolique, a photographic exploration of Christensen’s historical sources, created in 2001
- PLUS: An essay by critic Chris Fujiwara, remarks on the score by Anderson, and (with the Blu-ray) an essay by scholar Chloé Germaine Buckley
Blu-ray cover by Glyn Smith (pictured); DVD cover by Eva Wah
Available on Amazon.com .