For my film this week, The Void has chosen the 1922 German silent film Haxan. This has been lovingly restored for the Criterion Collection, and is available for streaming on HBO Max. This will be a shorter dissection than my previous submissions. Don’t get too excited. It really is not possible to go into too much of a story analysis.
You can check out my last post on Suspicion here, if you want to see a heated review. Nonetheless, let’s get into it.
Summarizing Haxan: The first stories
This film tells the story of witchcraft through the centuries. It is told in chapters with the first telling a history or how the Devil and witchcraft are connected and the preceding chapters telling dramatizations of witchcraft being practiced and the impact on innocent victims.
Many of the movie tropes we see today can be traced back to Haxan. The depiction of witches being ugly, old hags for one. Even in the story when the beautiful young woman is the witch, it is quite easy for her to frame a woman fitting this description as the witch and divert attention from herself.
In one of the first stories, what we have come to know as the early zombie walk is depicted. Arms straight out, walking aimlessly. The woman in question is young and beautiful, and stark naked. I don’t think I have ever seen shadows used so skillfully to maintain modesty.
German Macabre in Haxan
As the dramatization progresses there is a stunning scene of witches flying on their broomsticks, to dance with demons. I want to add that the witches are able to fly because of the ointment that they rub on each other’s back. I wonder if that could be where the concept of Pixie Dust came from?
There were a number of laugh out loud moments for me, but I am not sure they were intentional. It could be the fact that, at times, I have the sense of humor of a 13-year-old boy. When the title card suggests that witches have to kiss the devil’s bottom and then showed an illustration of this act, I found it quite amusing. I must also say that my laughter was that of being delighted by the images, which were highly imaginative and way ahead of their time. The Germans have a special quality in their depiction of the macabre, especially during the 1920s.
The film is in black and white, but the filmmaker also used a sepia color, often indicating either firelight, or hellfire. The use of shadow, as I previously mentioned, was masterfully done. It allowed the provocative to be present, but maintained the film’s modesty.
I am recommending this film, especially to those who love the process of filmmaking. To those, it is almost essential viewing. Also, those of you who are Pop Culture addicts like me, you might want to watch to see where Tenacious D and Dave Grohl found their inspiration for their version of the devil in “The Pick of Destiny.”
While this take was short and sweet, I will be back with whatever The Void decides to throw me. Hope all of your 2022 are magical…with no devil butt kissing included!