Haxan is a bizarre curio by Christensen that was banned for many years for its depiction of devil worship and nudity.
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Haxan (1922)

Human sacrifice Haxan (1922)(Svensk Filmindustri) 113mins. BW. Silent. Sweden. Aka: WITCHCRAFT THROUGH THE AGES.
Credits: Dir., Prod. & Sc: Benjamin Christensen; A.Prod: Ernest Mattison; Ph: Johan Ankarstjerne; Sets: Richard Louw.
Cast: Emmy Schoenfeld, Oscar Stribolt, Benjamin Christensen, Astrid Holm, Holst-Jurgensen, Karen Winther, Maren Pedersen, Elith Pio, Johs Andersen, Ib Schonberg, Aage Hertel, Clara Pontoppidan, Tora Teje.

Written and produced from 1919 to 1921 by Denmark's master of silent horror Benjamin Christensen, HAXAN, or to use the fully anglicised title, WITCHCRAFT THROUGH THE AGES is a bizarre curio that was decades ahead of its time. Indeed the film was banned outside of Sweden for many, many years and only appeared in a severely truncated form in America during 1929, a time when Christensen and a multitude of other European filmakers had succumbed to Hollywood's feverish bid to import foreign talent. Christensen decribed his brief time in America as a most unpleasant experience.

Karna the witch from Haxan (1922)HAXAN, Christensen's most ambitious and stylised film, traces the history of witchcraft from the Middle Ages up until the present in a quasi-documentary format that begins with a series of illustrations and models to explain the acts of diabolism and the extreme penalties the practitioners received at the hands of religious zealots. Dramatisations include a scene set in 1488 when a witch named Karna is seen preparing a potion to help a woman win the affections of an obese man of the church. The Devil also makes an appearance as played by Christensen himself donning rough shaggy hair, extended talons and pointed ears. Christensen as the Devil in Haxan (1922)
A witch is forced to confess through the use of "spiritual torture", that includes the use of stocks and a strong whipping, that she had indeed given birth to several misshapen children of Satan. What follows are scenes of a Devil's orgy that depicts evil behemoths performing human sacrifices, food being prepared from unbaptised children, witches kissing the Devil's behind, nudity, masturbation and fornication. Strong stuff even for the jaded tastes of today.
The witch also implicates others who have attended Blakulla, the legendary annual meeting place for those who practice the cursed arts.
Also depicted are a gruesome collection of so called "confessional aids" including the footpress, a spiked neck bracelet and the thumbscrew. Not only did the god fearing witch hunters who used these devices condemn over eight million men, women and children to be burnt at the stake over the course of three centuries, they also inflicted themselves with virtuous acts of self-torment to prove to others that they would attempt to exorcise any demons in themselves with a bracing session of the whip.
The film's final segment demonstrates that Satan is alive and well in the Twentieth Century with a large amount of psycho-twaddle explaining acts of thievery, hysteria, sleepwalking and pyromania.Haxan (1922)
One grisly scene that remains memorable is when a witch attempts to obtain a ring from the finger of a man who has been hanging on the gallows for some time, and instaed of just the ring, the witch rips off his entire finger.

Despite some of the film's ramblings, HAXAN is beautifully photographed by Svensk Filmindustri's resident camera operator Johan Ankerstjerne who makes full use of Richard Louw's superbly detailed scenery. However, it wasn't until 1969 that the film was restored to its original 113 minutes with a full score and a running commentary by William S. Burroughs.

Haxan (1922)Benjamin Christensen's other works are yet to be fully appraised, and due to the scarcity of the majority of his films, this would seem to be virtually impossible. The apparant loss of all but two of his films is deeply lamentable. By all accounts, The Haunted House (1928) and The House of Horror (1929) made for First National, would, if found, prove to be on par with Roland West's The Bat (1926) and Paul Leni's acclaimed The Cat and the Canary (1927).

Presently a copy of Christensen's  Seven Footprints to Satan is housed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and a fine, tinted copy of HAXAN was available on the Redemption video label in Britain.
We strongly recommend you try to find a copy.

DVD available click here