Häxan ★★★

Week 1 of A History of Horror – 2017 Weekly Challenge - Silent Horror

Haxan is what amounts to a drama documentary about witchcraft, focusing mainly on the era of the Inquisition.

It begins in a scholarly manner with engravings which show the way the world and it's place in the universe were supposed to be in various belief systems, with the intertitles telling us what we're looking at and a pointer on screen directing us the appropriate part of the picture.

But this approach soon makes way for dramatic representations of Hell and Satan and his Devils before moving on to witches and how they were supposed to have gone about their business.

Luckily the monochrome photography and lack of sound help to maintain an air of seriousness because you get the feeling that if it had sound and were in colour the depiction of the Devil would verge on the laughable. It's not hard to find yourself thinking of Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell.

I'm not going to lie, I found it all rather hard going, although that may well be a failing on my part. I castigate anyone who writes off black and white films simply because they're not in colour while I myself shy away from silent cinema.

Having said that there are some arresting images here and the film is at it's most engaging in it's use of trick photography and at one point a bit of stop motion.

Quite what effect it might have had upon it's audiences on it's release I can only imagine because I doubt there's been anything like it before or since.

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