Monday, October 3, 2011

Day 3: Haxan

Speedy McFlash's latest entry into 31 Days is the gothic Rosemary's Baby. So I thought it'd only be fitting to go all the way back to the 20's to a movie brewing with gothic and literary references. I've always held a serious attraction to silent horror. It gets away with many things the talkies cannot. For one, they are intensely atmospheric. & to go off on a slight tangent, that type of atmosphere has been rarely captured anymore. Only Eraserhead comes close (sorry Guy Maddin, I know ya tried with Brand Upon the Brain). Haxan constantly pokes at us with a three pronged pitchfork. It's fiendish cries and devilish gaze transfixing. Benjamin Christensen's lighting cues and staging help paint a darkened world of witchcraft, torture, and possessed nuns.

If film is indeed a visual medium revolving around light and movement, the silent pictures of old are in a class unto themselves. Just watching one of these makes you wish things would almost simplify in cinema. I love the Tarantino & Mamets of the world, filling the earholes with that oh-so wonderful dialogue. But isn't it just as wonderful, if not moreso, to sit back and get engulfed in the visuals the medium has to offer?

Christensen gave Haxan a tonality of surrealism. Denying us cues from when the film jumps from reality to another. Prefiguring the genres of demonic possession that the likes of Friedkin brought us with The Exorcist. It's one of those early sparks that started the hellfire and brimstone kindling.

If you have a fascination with the grotesque, the macabre or mysticism, you owe it to yourself to watch this.


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