Archive for the Sweden Category

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

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

Haxan Banner

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

Funery Call

Funery Call2

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.

Haxan

Haxan1

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.”

Haxan2

Haxan3

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.”

Haxan7

Haxan8

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.”

Haxan9

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.

Haxan12

Haxan25

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.

Haxan13

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.

Haxan24

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.

Haxan22

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.”

Haxan21

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

haxan nuns1

Haxan17

“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.

Haxan18

The devil bashes a nun with a bat!!

Haxan26

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!

Haxan Banner

Haxan2

haxan

Haxan1

LET THE RIGHT ONE IN (2008) – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in horror, movies, Sweden with tags , , , , , , , on May 28, 2010 by goregirl

I was left a suggestion to check out Let The Right One In a couple of weeks ago and was surprised I hadn’t already posted a review for it. This is actually my third viewing of the film, which I had originally caught at the 2008 Vancouver International Film Festival. Vampires have long been one of my favourite horror sub-genres, but good vampire films are very few and far between. Vampire flicks like Let The Right One In definitely don’t come along nearly often enough. The film is intelligent, gorgeously filmed, well acted and completely engrossing from beginning to end. For a film featuring two pre-teens as lead characters it boasts an amazingly mature and richly layered story. While it does explore pre-teen angst issues like bullies and crushes, Oskar and Eli are anything but A-typical examples of their peers.

Oskar is a pale, awkward pre-teen who is bullied at school and travels back and forth between divorced parents. He dreams of revenge against his tormentors, practices using his knife on a tree and keeps a scrapbook of newspaper clippings of grisly murders. One evening as Oskar is sitting alone outside he meets Eli, who has just moved in next door. Oskar seems to recognize that like himself the mysterious Eli is a loner. Eli smells strange, appears to be impervious to the Swedish winter weather and only comes out to play at night. Although Eli tells Oskar during their first meeting that she cannot be his friend, she appears the next evening knowing full well that Oskar will be there. As a friendship begins, lives are ending violently. Victims have been found hanging from their feet with their throats slashed. Since it is common knowledge that this is a vampire tale I don’t think it would be a spoiler to tell you that the murders are being perpetrated by Eli’s guardian. But the violence definitely takes a backseat in Let The Right One In. The violence is generally obscured from the viewer. You see blood on faces and clothing and pouring into jugs but you don’t get any clear shots of bloodletting. When a horror film has a great story and amazing characterizations getting graphic is not a necessity. I love the gore, (I do call myself goregirl after all) but I felt the violence matched the tone of the film perfectly. The central focus is Eli and Oskar and the killing is an ugly necessity for survival.

Tomas Alfredson takes a very minimalistic approach here with a very simple toned down score and little dialogue. Sound effects and silence are used extremely well. The amazing cinematography creates the perfect mood throughout. I loved the night shots of Eli and Oskar sitting together outside in the snow. The calmness of these scenes is even more breathtaking in contrast to the scenes of violence equally present. The dialog is fluid and realistic but it certainly helps when you have great performances to sell it. Alfredson could not have made a better casting choice with Kåre Hedebrant and Lina Leandersson. Kåre Hedebrant plays Oskar with a carefree ease while darkness crosses his path he remains quite calm through it all. He adds his own brand of uniqueness to the stereotypical misfit kid creating a character you empathize with and root for. I felt emotionally invested in Oskar from his first scene where we simply watch him go quietly through his day. Lina Leandersson is stunning in the role of Eli. Eli is mature well beyond her years but still possesses the whims of a typical twelve-year-old girl. Watching Eli’s survival instincts in action is made more powerful because of her lingering human emotions. The two young actors have exceptional chemistry together and contributed immensely to the films effectiveness.

Let The Right One In is a morality tale, an examination of love and friendship, but most importantly, it is a vampire film. Most of the vampire lore used here is of the traditional variety. Eli comes out only at night, has the ability to fly and shimmy up sides of buildings and possesses inhuman strength. She is able to infect others with her bite but prefers to leave her prey dead. There is only one example of a bite victim in the film, but it is a memorable one! Of its many brilliant scenes, one of the best illustrates what happens to a vampire when they enter your house uninvited. Tomas Alfredson does a beautiful job of seamlessly merging the vampire part of the story with the human part of the story. The cherry on top is the perfect ending, which could be conceived as either happy or tragic depending on how you look at it.

Let The Right One In is one of my favourite films, horror or otherwise from the past decade. There was a lot of hype surrounding this film and I actually feel it deserves every last accolade it received. By now, you’ve probably already heard about the American remake Let Me In. How someone could watch this film and come to the conclusion that they could do better is a mystery to me, and remaking it just two years after its release is something I find absolutely repugnant. With hundreds of original flicks to check out I have little interest in remakes but those of you who wander down that road, at least see the original before going to see the American remake! There isn’t a damn thing I would change about this film. Let The Right One In is perfect. Highest of Recommendations!

Dungeon Rating: 5/5

Directed By: Tomas Alfredson

Starring: Kåre Hedebrant, Lina Leandersson, Per Ragnar, Henrik Dahl, Karin Bergquist, Peter Carlberg, Ika Nord, Mikael Rahm, Karl-Robert Lindgren

VARGTIMMEN – HOUR OF THE WOLF (1968) – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in horror, movies, Sweden with tags , , on May 3, 2010 by goregirl

This is my third viewing of Ingmar Bergman’s Hour of The Wolf. When you think horror, it is unlikely Ingmar Bergman’s name is the first to pop into your head. But Hour of The Wolf is definitely a horror film. I’m actually a fan of Bergman’s work. Hour of The Wolf Is considerably less heavy handed and emotionally draining than other Bergman efforts but definitely has the man’s signature all over it.

Artist Johan Borg has not been sleeping well and is troubled by disturbing images that are affecting his work. Along with his young dedicated and pregnant wife the two travel by boat to a cottage they keep on a remote island. Johan hopes the serene setting will help clear his mind and respark his creativity. But the environment only acts as fuel to his fragile mental state and Johan begins to descend even deeper into his nightmarish world.

Hour Of The Wolf is a dark and fascinating journey into a troubled mind. We begin with Alma giving an interview to an unseen man about Johans disappearance. Between what we learn from Alma and what is learned from a diary Johan kept make up the content of the film. It is clear that Alma is frightened and saddened by the strange occurrences that happened prior to Johan’s disappearance. Her body language more than her words speaks volumes. We begin with our tale as the two are dropped by a small boat on the shore along with their belongings. They share some brief happy moments until day becomes night. Alma stays awake with Johan each night past “the Hour of the Wolf” which in Johan’s words, is the time when most people die and most babies are born. Johan frantically shows an exhausted Alma sketches of the people of his nightmares. The people who make him fear closing his eyes. Alma loves her husband selflessly and completely and hopes to grow old with him so they may begin to both think alike and act alike as old couples will often do. Alma gets her wish sooner than later when Johan’s nightmare people begin to materialize themselves, and even Alma herself is unsure whether they are real. Real or perceived, they want Alma out of the picture, because when Johan is with Alma he is safe.

The nightmare people look normal enough but their actions are strange and disconcerting. There are some truly bizarre and creepy moments during their interactions. One evening Alma and Johan agree to dine with the eccentric group. In a particularly effective scene their host puts on a chilling puppet show to Mozart’s Magic Flute where the puppet character learns the meaninglessness of human life. A scene that stayed with me long after. Among numerous amazing and effective scenes Johan illustrates how long one minute can truly be. The simplest scene you could image and yet powerful as hell. There are no wasted moments in this film. Every last second is dedicated to mood and to an oppressive and frightening atmosphere that is nothing short of brilliant. Hour Of The Wolf is a slow boil surreal journey of the psychological that is a total trip. Flawlessly filmed in gorgeous black and white it is a treat for the senses. The characterizations are richly developed and the performances are perfection. Max von Sydow is excellent as the artist descending into madness and Liv Ullman is an absolute amazement as his dedicated wife.

Hour of the Wolf is a beautiful film that is at times admittedly mind- boggling. But any intimate view of a mental breakdown would have to be a puzzle in my opinion if it is going to be truly effective. I loved this film. Certainly Bergman’s films aren’t for everyone and I get that. I suspect some may just be bored. But for me, this film completely envelopes me in its surreal embrace. Hour of The Wolf is a brilliant film and gets my highest of recommendations. If you check this one out and love it like I do, I highly recommend you also check out Bergman’s The Virgin Spring, the film that inspired Craven’s Last House On The Left.

Dungeon Rating: 5/5

Directed By: Ingmar Bergman

Starring: Max von Sydow, Liv Ullmann, Gertrud Fridh, Georg Rydeberg, Erland Josephson, Naima Wifstrand, Ulf Johansson, Gudrun Brost, Bertil Anderberg, Ingrid Thulin

Män som hatar kvinnor – THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (2009) – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in movies, Sweden with tags , , on April 22, 2010 by goregirl

Guess what I did on Monday? I actually went to see a film at the theatre! A rare occurance here in the Dungeon today; a review for a new flick! Granted the film was actually released in Sweden last year but is only now making a theatrical debut here in beautiful British Columbia. Don’t misunderstand, I love going to see films in the theatre but finances prevent me from doing so as often as I would like. There were a lot of choices playing that weren’t doing it for me, so we went with a blind pick not knowing much more than it was a Swedish Thriller. It should be noted that The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is adapted from a trilogy of books by Stieg Larsson. Never having read the books I obviously can’t comment how they compare. The film is not without its flaws plot-wise but I still found the film to be a rock solid piece of entertainment! Although definitely a thriller, it certainly has its share of horrific moments. In fact, it features one of the best revenge sequences I’ve seen in a long while. Considering the material usually reviewed on this blog, I think that’s saying something!

Henrik Vanger has hired Lisbeth Salander to dig up information on Mikael Blomkvist without finding a single spec of dirt. Vanger than hires Mikael to help uncover the truth behind the 1966 disappearance of his beloved niece Harriet. An overwhelming sense of curiosity has Lisbeth continuing to follow the movements of Mikael. After hacking into his computer she is able to figure out a key bit of information and the two begin working together to solve the Vanger family mystery.

The vast majority of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo takes place during winter on an eerily beautiful and remote Island accessible by a single bridge. The vast island wears the snow like a straitjacket giving you a feeling of claustrophobia amongst the openness. The Island is scattered with a few homes owned by the various Vanger family members. The place is practically deserted and barely shows signs of life. Many of the family members detest one another and avoid each other as much as possible. A photograph from a Vanger family gathering beautifully illustrates the general mood of the group. You can practically see the huge black storm cloud hovering above their heads! The more I learned about the wealthy, dysfunctional family the darker and more foreboding the Island became. No one is going to hear you scream on Vanger Island!

Henrik Vanger suspects that his niece’s disappearance was murder and the deed was committed by one of his family members. One day during the summer of 1966 an accident closed the bridge cutting the island off from the mainland. It was on this day that Harriet Vanger went missing. Every year on his birthday Harriet would give Henrik flowers pressed inside a frame. The flowers continued to come every year since Harriet disappearance. Henrik believes her murderer is sending the gifts. Henrik refuses to die without an answer to the mystery that has been his forty-year obsession. This is where our main characters Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander come together. Mikael is a middle-aged investigative journalist who has recently made the news after losing a libel suit against a powerful businessman. He is forced to resign from his job and is sentenced to six months in jail. Lisbeth Salander is an introverted pierced and tattooed hacker with a photographic memory. The two make an unlikely duo but work together beautifully. Michael Nyqvist who plays Mikael Blomkvist is excellent. He is extremely likeable and it is easy to see how Lisbeth might be attracted to him. Lisbeth after all has not had a lot of positive interaction with men in her life. Noomi Rapace is a freaking revelation as Lisbeth Salander! Rapace plays the girl with the titular tattoo with quiet and violent passion. A troubling childhood and a ward of the state she is an expert hacker and an extraordinarily intelligent woman. She is also an introvert with violent tendencies. This character and Rapace’s performance have been permanently branded onto my brain. One of my criticisms with the film does pertain to Lisbeth’s ending. It didn’t fit what I knew about the character. Keeping in mind that this is part of a trilogy, I will cut it a bit of slack. But they better do some explaining in this next film. There are also some questions left unanswered regarding the Vanger plot. It was hard to ignore Henrik’s lack of information learned after being obsessed with Harriet’s disappearance for forty years. Particularly where it relates to the picture of Harriet in the window. Sorry for the vague reference but I can’t say more without spoiling.

I was completely enthralled by The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. From the amazing wintery and bleak island setting to the violent and satisfying act of revenge; the visuals really are impressive. There’s a great scene where Mikael flips through a series of pictures making them into moving images that give clues to Harriet’s fate. The film is a joy to watch and its steady pace and brilliant lead performances kept me glued to the screen. There are some outstanding moments of intensity and some intriguing twists and turns. I did have some issues with the plot, but overall The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo was an excellent intense gritty thriller and comes highly recommended! I look forward to watching this film again when it comes out on DVD.

Dungeon Rating: 4/5

Directed By: Niels Arden Oplev

Starring: Michael Nyqvist, Noomi Rapace, Lena Endre, Peter Haber, Sven-Bertil Taube, Peter Andersson, Ingvar Hirdwall, Marika Lagercrantz, Björn Granath, Ewa Fröling, Michalis Koutsogiannakis, Annika Hallin, Sofia Ledarp, Tomas Köhler, David Dencik