The Witch (Häxan) (1922)

dir. Benjamin Christensen. Delightfully strange and often amusing film about the history of Witchcraft in the middle ages, and how the church persecuted women – particularly women born with disabilities, or simply unlucky enough to catch the ire of a spiteful priest. The message of the film is dated by the connection of imagined witchcraft to a supposedly more scientific affliction of hysteria. The film presents as a sort of documentary, with extended dramatized scenes depicting witch trials and various tortures. One of the most powerful sections depict an elderly woman being tortured by monks, which remarkably foreshadow the performance of Renée Jeanne Falconetti in the silent classic, THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC, five years later. Fans of THE EXORCIST (1973) may notice a very interesting connection in the opening sections depicting woodcut prints of satanic acts. The director Benjamin Christensen has a great time depicting Satan, complete with a lascivious and wicked tongue.

By Nicholas Hudson-Ellis

Co-Founder & Film Programs Manager of Bangkok Screening Room.

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