What’s your budget for occult-related artifacts? Well, it probably needs to be a lot bigger, because some gorgeous vintage photos from the 1922 Swedish/Danish documentary, Häxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages are up for auction. The opening bid was $2,000, and the lot is expected to go for somewhere between $4,000 and $8,000.
For the uninitiated, Häxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages is only a “documentary” in a very abstract sense. Intrigued by the Malleus Maleficarum—a 15th century German guide to witch and demon identification—director Benjamin Christensen depicted the occult hysteria of the Middle Ages by actually portraying the delusions and superstitions themselves. So instead of a movie made up entirely of inquisitions and trials and executions (which, to be fair, are certainly scary), he delivered a motion picture depicting mental illness, satanic masses, baby killing, sex with the devil, broom rides, the seduction of clergy and all manner of cinematic evil. The film was once banned in the United States.
I highly recommend you watch it, and I also highly recommend the 1968 William S. Burroughs-narrated version I posted at the bottom. The film was originally silent (obviously), but whatever score might have been played at a screening couldn’t be any creepier than hearing William S. Burroughs’ nasally voice over psychedelic jazz and electronic noises. Plus, the Criterion Collection version is 104 minutes long, whereas the Burroughs version is 77 minutes, since a narrator eliminates the necessity of title cards.
Häxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages was the most expensive Swedish film ever made at the time, and it shows. There are lush, eery sets, clearly created with careful attention to detail, and the early special effects are haunting, even in our cynical CGI-laden present day. The cinematography is also very sophisticated, using odd angles and unsettling close-ups. It’s absolutely gorgeous, a true fantastic horror—disturbing, violent, and sometimes sexy—pretty much everything you want in an occult documentary, no? To give you a taste, some of the lot is below, (the first four are larger sized, the others are smaller photos).
But really, watch the movie. In the dark.
Oh, and buy me these photographs. I need them for apartment ambiance whilst summoning the dark forces
Thank you, Eric Bradley!