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Film / Häxan

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HäxanTranslation  (international title: Witchcraft Through the Ages), directed by Benjamin Christensen, is a 1922 Swedish/Danish movie often noted as either one of the first modern documentaries, an early horror movie, or one of the first exploitation films.

Ostensibly, it's a serious look at mediaeval superstition and the horrific consequences thereof, and how we're not so very different today. It achieves this by showing etchings from mediaeval works about witchcraft, pictures of torture implements, and dramatised scenes of sorcery, black masses, inquisitions, and modern psychiatry, featuring plenty of Gorn and Fanservice.

The film is in the public domain and can be viewed online.

Häxan provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Burn the Witch!: Well, duh.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Used on a suspected witch to get her to confess.
  • Cross-Cultural Kerfluffle: The ending title card to this deadly serious docudrama. Amusingly, the Swedish for "The End" is "Slut".
  • Eats Babies: One of the things believed to have happened at black masses.
  • Enfant Terrible: The supposed witch confesses (under torture, so it might not be true) to giving birth to the children of the devil. This is shown, complete with either little people or children wearing freaky devil costumes.
  • Fan Disservice: A surprising amount of nudity by older women and fat men being tortured or dressed up like demons.
  • Fanservice: A surprising amount of nudity for a 1922 film. The nude woman who walks through a forest and bows before a demon stands out.
  • Flying Broomstick: Witches are shown flying over a town.
  • Good Cop/Bad Cop: During the Inquisition era.
  • Literal Ass-Kissing: Witches are said to do this when they pay homage to demons. And, unfortunately, this is dramatized.
  • Love Potion: A woman uses this to seduce a pious monk.
  • Mockumentary: Sort of—the film uses the Malleus Maleficarum as a source, with dramatization of scenes.
  • Morton's Fork: The witch trials make heavy use of this.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: Mediaeval superstition about witches and demons is compared to then-modern views on mental illness.
  • Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions: The film notes that we no longer believe heavenly bodies move in spheres and we don't cower before frescoes of devils.
  • A Party, Also Known as an Orgy: The black mass devolves into this.
  • Satan: Appears several times, along with other ancillary demons.
  • Shown Their Work: The film is largely based on the Malleus Maleficarum, faults and all.
  • A Taste of the Lash: One witch is whipped for not being evil enough. A monk is whipped after the sight of an attractive lady behing held prisoner for witchcraft makes him horny.
  • Toplessness from the Back: Used on several occasions for Fanservice.
  • Wicked Witch: Deconstructed.
  • Witch Hunt: Literally. The poor old lady suspected of witchcraft gets her revenge by identifying the woman that turned her in as also being a witch.