Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Häxan (1922)

Last night's Birmingham Town Hall screening of Häxan was remarkable, not least for the Julian Cope lecture that preceded it:
But there is much more to "Häxan" than a mere collection of grotesque images and vignettes. Towards the end, in particular, the commentary becomes quite pointed. It is quite easy for anyone - film-maker, writer, commentator - to criticize and condemn the beliefs and practices of the Middle Ages or of any other long past era. But it is far more of a challenge to, as Christensen has done here, point out the sometimes devastating parallels to one's own era. It is always such a comforting fiction to believe that we are so much more enlightened than past generations have been, and yet it is rarely if ever true.
Häxan isn't easy-going for a modern audience, partly because familiarity with some of the imagery has reduced it to the level of the ridiculous, partly because it takes its time in developing scenes that wouldn't get screen time now. It's still amazing though, and demonstrates the sheer wonder about the medium that must have been commonplace in 1922. Here's a clip, though lacking the electronic live soundtrack we were treated to last night.

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