Archive for the Denmark Category

No Volume Needed November: Häxan, Witchcraft Through the Ages (1922)

Posted in Denmark, movies, Sweden with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 3, 2013 by goregirl

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On Halloween night I went to see the full 104 minute version of Benjamin Christensen’s Häxan, Witchcraft Through the Ages. Besides being special simply for the fact that it is the original version of the film shown with lovely color tint it was also accompanied by live music. The music was performed by Vancouver’s Funerary Call. I actually recorded some of the screening to give you an idea of what the music was like but there was coughing and talking in it that I could not edit. A real shame as my words can not really do the fabulous musical accompaniment justice. Häxan, Witchcraft Through the Ages’ haunting live score was extraordinary accompaniment that really added to my enjoyment of an already wholly fascinating and hypnotic film. Below are a couple of shots of Funerary Call

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Häxan, Witchcraft Through the Ages is more or less what its name suggests; a documentary about witchcraft through the ages. More accurately it is a documentary about how superstition and fevered religious beliefs poison the mind and cause human beings to act irrationally. There was certainly nothing rational about the witch hunts. Under torture a person could be provoked to agree to just about anything. The medieval instruments used in this torture were horrifying beyond comprehension. Every woman accused of witchcraft would finger several more. The middle ages were not easy on us ladies. The film ends with some thoughts on the medical condition “female hysteria”. Häxan is, “A presentation from a cultural and historical point of view in 7 chapters of moving pictures.” Benjamin Christensen wrote the script and produced this film between the years 1919 and 1921 with help from Johan Ankerstjerne who did the photography and Richard Louw who handled the art direction. Häxan was heavily edited or outright banned in just about every country in the world. My viewing of the full version on the big screen with live musical accompaniment prompted me to re-watch the truncated version with narration by author William. S. Burroughs. I really love Burroughs narration; I think the man has the most unusual voice that lends itself to the subject beautifully. I definitely prefer the color tint of the original; it isn’t unappealing in black and white it is just a bit lacklustre. I really dug the jazzy score by Daniel Humair in the Burrough’s version but I didn’t think it was the best choice for the material. Personally, I much prefer the longer version, but restless types may want to check out the shorter Burroughs version (which evidently is still awesome). The first six black and white images to follow are from the 1968 truncated re-released and re-titled Witchcraft Through the Ages (77 minutes) narrated by William S. Burroughs.

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Christensen spent two years pouring over countless manuals and other documents to learn as much as possible about witches. Häxan, Witchcraft Through the Ages consists of a series of images in the form of illustrations, models and re-enactments. The two images above are examples of some of the still imagery included.

The following are the accompanying subtitles for the above pictures from the Criterion print of Häxan, Witchcraft Through the Ages.

Top Picture: “Deep down in the earth’s core lies hell, where those tempted by the devil shall suffer forever. In the upper part of the picture (from the French historian Lacroix) the devils are stuffing the damned into large pots. A sinner is thrown straight into the fire burning under one of the cauldrons. A devil pours the nasty sulfur oozing from a horn down a man’s throat. Two monsters torment some of the damned with their sharp teeth.”

Bottom Picture: “Women who wanted to participate in the Sabbath sneaked away to the sorcerer where they could have their backs smeared with witch ointment. The witchcraft of the ointment would allow them to fly through the air.”

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Much of Häxan, Witchcraft Through the Ages’ runtime is made up of reenactments which are all extremely well done and beautifully shot. The film’s strange, amusing, horrific and haunting visuals really are quite spectacular. The above two pictures feature a woman who seeks the aid of a witch named Karna to concoct a love potion to win the heart of a friar.

“Karna can you perchance get me a love potion that has power over a pious man of the church?”

“Here young maiden, take a potion of cat feces and dove hearts boiled in the moonlight. A drop of this in a man’s drink will soften his heart at once.”

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The above two pictures are from one of my favourite scenes in the film. Director Benjamin Christensen plays Satan and what a fantastic Satan he is! I love his horns and long gnarly claws! What I love best about him though is his hugely cheeky attitude. The makeup and costumes is just another thing to admire about Häxan, Witchcraft Through the Ages. In this scene a young maiden licks her lips hungrily and awakes to the devil who is motioning at her to come hither. Next thing you know the two are embracing. The following is the accompanying subtitles for this scene…

“So it happens with witchcraft as with the devil; people’s belief in him was so strong that he became real. The devil is everywhere and takes all shapes. He shows himself as a nightmare, a raging demon, a seducer, a lover and a knight.”

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See the difference the color tinting makes? I think it livens the film up so awesomely. Satan is red and all is right with the world. I certainly have no issue with black and white; I really love black and white photography. But the color tinting adds a lot to the atmosphere as well as the visuals of this particular silent film.

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This re-enactment is the lengthiest of those included and focuses on the sick-bed of Jesper the Printer. Jesper the Printer is dying and the family are told that the cause is “atrocious witchcraft”. When an elderly lady called Maria the Weaver shows up minutes later one of the women of the house suspects her of being the culprit who cursed Jesper.

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Maria the Weaver is accused of witchcraft and the regular methods are used to evoke a confession. Every woman accused of witchcraft gives away several more.

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Pictured above are the implements of torture used to evoke a confession. This section pulls no punches with demonstrations of what each heinous instrument was intended for. There is no graphic crushing of thumbs or the like but it is nonetheless disturbing. For more images of torture devices in Häxan, Witchcraft Through the Ages’ click here.

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I am a total sucker for people in animal costumes. there is just something particularly disturbing about people in animal costumes. How fantastic is this image? I mean seriously! Best Halloween costume EVER! I don’t think enough good stuff can be said about the costumes in this film!

“There are witch confessions that are totally insane. Many woman for instance confess that transformed into cats they soiled the altar during the night while two devils in the shape of animals stood guard at the church door.”

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“Do you remember maiden that Jesper the Printer’s child is all alone in the world without relatives besides you?”

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“In the Convents during the middle ages, fear of the Devil escalated into an almost hopeless despair. The pious gave themselves up to many a regrettable self-punishment. Often a single nun was seized and suddenly thereafter the whole convent was overtaken by insanity; a mysterious, contagious insanity.” For more nun images click here.

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The devil bashes a nun with a bat!!

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Häxan, Witchcraft Through the Ages’ ends with a shoplifter and a sleepwalker; both ailments that might have been interpreted as devil possession or witchcraft in the middle ages. Christensen draws a connection between witchcraft and female hysteria which was a commonly diagnosed disorder when the film was made in the early 1920s. Häxan, Witchcraft Through the Ages’ is actually quite brutal at times and shocking even by today’s standards. At one point they bleed an unbaptized baby and throw it in a pot! The costumes, sets, props, art work, performances; everything about Häxan, Witchcraft Through the Ages’ is first-rate, not to mention incredibly informative. Häxan is without a doubt one of the most interesting and visceral documentary/docudramas I have ever seen. It was a one of a kind treat seeing Häxan on the big screen with live musical accompaniment. This is actually my second silent horror film I have seen with a live score; the first being Nosferatu. I can not recommend more highly checking out any silent film with a live score if you are lucky enough to have one play at your local theatre. Häxan, Witchcraft Through the Ages’ gets my highest of recommendations; a perfect score.

Dungeon Rating: 5/5

Directed By: Benjamin Christensen

Starring: Benjamin Christensen, Elisabeth Christensen, Maren Pedersen, Clara Pontoppidan, Elith Pio, Oscar Stribolt, Tora Teje, John Andersen, Poul Reumert, Karen Winther

No Volume Needed November & Häxan Halloween!

Posted in Denmark, horror, movies, Sweden on October 31, 2013 by goregirl

Gory Greetings and Happy Halloween! I said there would be a second Favourite Five list but I must have fallen and hit my head or something! There is no way in hell I am getting a Favourite Five list done for posting tonight. I am going to see a special presentation of Benjamin Christensen’s 1922 Silent film Häxan, Witchcraft Through the Ages tonight at the Vancity Theatre. The presentation will include live music by Funerary Call. On Monday November 4 I will have my first post for No Volume Needed November on you guessed it; the aforementioned special presentation of Häxan, Witchcraft Through the Ages!

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ANTICHRIST – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in Denmark, horror, movies with tags , , on October 5, 2009 by goregirl

antichristI attended a screening of Lars Von Trier’s ‘Antichrist’ on opening night of the Vancouver International Film Festival. Von Trier is a director who consistently creates a unique experience for the viewer. Thought-provoking, emotionally challenging and always intriguing. This is Von Trier’s first foray into the horror genre. Fans of his previous works should be prepared for something far more graphic and disturbing. There were numerous gasps and uncomfortable laughter at scenes that were obviously not intended to be humorous. ‘Antichrist’ has been knocking about in my head for three days. I kept reopening my notepad document and staring at the single sentence I wrote. It is certainly not an easy film to summarize.

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The cinematography is spectacular, featuring some of the most provocative and imaganitive shots I have ever seen. The film is divided into three chapters; Grief, Pain and Despair. I hadn’t read much about the film before going in, so I was really surprised by the opening scene. Assuming you’ve read little yourself, I dare not tell you about it. There are two separate events happening simultaneously, one causing agony and the other causing ecstasy. The camera goes back and forth between the two scenerios, each in slow motion. This is an extremely effective, visually stunning scene. It is an appropriate prologue for our first chapter, Grief. The film features only two characters, both of which remain nameless throughout. I will refer to them as husband and wife. The traumatic event in question causes the wife to faint and she spends a month in the hospital. The husband is a therapist and does not agree with the course of action regarding his wife’s treatment. He decides to bring her home, believing he can guide her through the healing process. Healing does not come easy in this place of remembered things. During the process he challenges her to confront her fears, which seem to stem from a place called Eden. A cottage in the woods where she had spent the previous summer working on her dissertation on medieval misogyny. Together they travel to this place of her darkest fears.

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There are graphic scenes of sex and violence throughout ‘Antichrist’. You see full penis penetration within minutes of the films start. There are numerous scenes where the couple engage in fevered sex initiated by the wife, in an attempt to mask her grief with lust. The candid sexuality in this film never felt loving, only masochistic. There are two scene’s of violence in particular that will be extremely difficult for many people to watch. I must admit to some wincing during one of the scenes myself, and I am far more weathered to violence than most.

Dafoe and Gainsbourg are brilliant. Dafoe’s character is very clinical in his approach, although he states he loves his wife, he exudes very little warmth. He is therapist first and husband second. Torn at times between his role as therapist and husband, he becomes frustrated with his wife’s progress stating to her “this will not do!” His wife accuses him of indifference and cites his absense from her trip taken the previous summer. At this point in the film, it seems that in her grief she wants nothing more than to lash out and hurt him. But as the film progresses it becomes apparent that the husband does not know the wife, and a distance had grown between them over the past several months, well before the tragedy. Gainsbourg is pain personified. Not only does she carry the grief, guilt and dispair of her own situation but those of every woman tortured, maimed and sacrificed. Her character is tragic, but is also completely and utterly mad. Somehow she manages to be frail and threatening all at once. She is unflinchingly brutal and terrifying.

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Von Trier injects plenty of expressionism into his reality. There are some startling images involving animals and nature that has an almost apocalyptic feel. I certainly do not claim to understand every moment of ‘Antichrist’, but there is definitely a heavy emphasis on religion, mythology and nature. Eden, quite unlike its portrayal in the bible, is a menacing place of fear and darkness. Nature is referred to as Satan’s church. A sound in the woods becomes the cry of all things that are about to die. Animals look you in the eye and speak, telling you that chaos reigns. In Lars Von Trier’s world, indeed it does.

‘Antichrist’ is an emotional and psychological mindblow that paints a bleak and violent picture of dispair and misery and the destructive nature of human beings. I’m not entirely sure who ‘Antichrist’ will appeal to. I loved this film, it challenged me, horrified me and its images have firmly engraved themselves on my brain. Highest of recommendations!

Dungeon Rating: 5/5

Directed By: Lars Von Trier

Starring: Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg

Lars Von Trier’s ANTICHRIST Trailer Starring Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg

Posted in Denmark, horror, movies, Trailer on May 2, 2009 by goregirl

Directed and written by Lars von Trier. A few of his directorial highlights include Breaking the Waves, Dancer in the Dark, and the brilliant, Dogville. He is definitely a director who is not afraid to show the dark side of humanity. Starring Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg. Release Date: 29 May 2009 (Denmark). I absolutely cannot wait for this one!

THE SUBSTITUTE (VIKAREN) – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in Denmark, horror, movies with tags , , , , on March 28, 2009 by goregirl

the-substitute-promo-posterThe films opening scene explains that aliens know only war. Their goal is to learn about and understand the human emotion of love. In attempt to do just that, they send a sphere that lands
on a deserted chicken farm. They take over the body of a farmers wife who reports to work as a grade six school teacher. Paprika Steen who plays the teacher is fantastic. She plays the wickedly nasty teacher with over the top ethusiasm and absolutely nails it. It is one of the most amusing and entertaining characters I have seen in a horror film in some time. The kids figure out almost immediately that there is something not quite right about their new teacher. She taunts and humilates the children with insults and appears to have the answer to every question. The more they learn about their new teacher the more horrified they become. The first half of this film is rock solid. A real masterpiece. Unfortunately the films conclusion is a complete and utter crapout. The ending seemed hurried and the finale was anti-climatic to say the least. It is intended to be more amusing than horrifying but it would have been appropriate to add a little more suspense, particularily for the final scene. There is no gore in this film and no scares at all. There are only a few isolated moments of suspense. This being said this film is still extremely watchable and I think that people who aren’t generally fans of the horror genre will also enjoy it. More “PG” than our regular fair but some really good clean fun! Definitely watch with the subtitles on! The dubbed version is unforgiveably bad! This 2007 Danish film is worth your rental dollar.

Dungeon Review: 3.5/5

Directed By: Ole Bornedal

Starring: Paprika Steen, Ulrich Thomsen, Jonas Wandschneider, Nikolaj Falkenberg-Klok, Emma Juel Justesen, Mollie Maria Gilmartin, Josephine Gents, Emma Claudia Søndergaard, Jakob Fals Nygaard, Andreas Gram Nielsen, Mathias Peter Kjær and Sonja Richter
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