(out of 5)
Fascinating and creepy silent film from Sweden that deals with the mythology of witchcraft throughout the ages. Director Benjamin Christensen has fashioned an epic of information and fancy that details the many writings on the subject matter of devil worship, plus folklore and popular myths. In detailed sections of narration (through title cards), the film has a frank and honest approach to its subject matter, but there are a number of times when the stories being told are acted out, giving the film a much more humorous and frightening quality: nuns going mad in a convent, witches kissing the devil’s derriere in the full moon, old women being accused of sorcery and executed because of ignorant suspicions. Released in the sixties in an edited version with a new score and narration by William S. Burroughs, this early influence on The Blair Witch Project (the filmmakers’ production company was named after it) was recently restored to its original brilliance by the Janus film company as one of their offerings in their Criterion Collection, and it’s the only way that the film should be seen.
Aljosha Production Company, Svensk Filmindustri
Directed by Benjamin Christensen
Screenplay by Benjamin Christensen
Cinematography by Johan Ankerstjerne
Production Design by Richard Louw
Film Editing by Edla Hansen