Häxan (in English titled Witchcraft Through The Ages) is likely one of the most unusual silent films you'll ever see. Truly. Benjamin Christensen’s legendary 1922 film uses a series of dramatic vignettes to explore the hypothesis that witches of the Middle Ages suffered the same hysteria as turn-of-the-century psychiatric patients. The film itself, however, is far from deadly serious — instead, it’s a witches’ brew of the scary and darkly humorous.
Here is some of what Wikipedia has to say about this often bizarre and seldom screened work.
"Häxan is a 1922 Swedish/Danish silent film written and directed by Benjamin Christensen. Based partly on Christensen's study of the Malleus Maleficarum, a 15th century German guide for inquisitors, Häxan is a study of how superstition and the misunderstanding of diseases and mental illness could lead to the hysteria of the witch-hunts. The film was made as a documentary but contains dramatized sequences that are comparable to horror films. With Christensen's meticulous recreation of medieval scenes and the lengthy production period, the film was the most expensive Scandinavian silent film ever made, costing nearly two million Swedish krona. Although it won acclaim in Denmark and Sweden, the film was banned in the United States and heavily censored in other countries for what were considered at that time graphic depictions of torture, nudity, and sexual perversion." Sound fun, doesn't it."
A 35mm restored and tinted print, from the Swedish Film Institute, will be screened on July 17th at this summer's San Francisco Silent Film Festival. If you are a witch, or know a witch, or want to become a witch, be sure NOT to miss this fantastic film!