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Häxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages (Blu-ray) Criterion


Grave robbing, torture, possessed nuns, and a satanic Sabbath: Benjamin Christensen’s legendary silent film uses a series of dramatic vignettes to explore the scientific hypothesis that the witches of the Middle Ages and early modern era suffered from the same ills as psychiatric patients diagnosed with hysteria in the film’s own time. Far from a dry dissertation on the topic, the film itself is a witches’ brew of the scary, the gross, and the darkly humorous. Christensen’s mix-and-match approach to genre anticipates gothic horror, documentary re-creation, and the essay film, making for an experience unlike anything else in the history of cinema.

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Special Features

On the Blu-ray: New 2K digital restoration
On the DVD: Digital transfer
Music from the 1922 Danish premiere, arranged by film-music specialist Gillian B. Anderson and performed by the Czech Film Orchestra in 2001, presented in 5.0 surround DTS-HD Master Audio on the Blu-ray and in Dolby Digital 5.0 on the DVD
Audio commentary from 2001 featuring film scholar Casper Tybjerg
Witchcraft Through the Ages (1968), a seventy-six-minute version of Häxan narrated by author William S. Burroughs, with a soundtrack featuring violinist Jean-Luc Ponty
Director Benjamin Christensen’s introduction to the 1941 rerelease
Bibliothèque diabolique, a photographic exploration of Christensen’s historical sources, created in 2001
PLUS: An essay by critic Chris Fujiwara, remarks on the score by Anderson, and, for the Blu-ray edition, an essay by scholar Chloé Germaine Buckley