Blu-ray Review: HAXAN Seduces in a Gorgeous 2K Restoration
Just in time for Halloween, Criterion has unleashed a new edition of the witchy classic, Haxan. Made in 1922, this Danish silent film directed by Benjamin Christensen --- and I'm shocked at how good this film looks on Blu-ray. The new 2K restoration from the Swedish Film Institute was created from a 35mm duplicate negative, and images "were tinted according to notes left by director Benjamin Christensen."
Now that's committment. And in an age where a lot of films are in danger of disappearing, the Criterion Collection is instrumental in preserving cinematic excellence. The tinting is beautifully rendered, by the way, and so much of the photography (the focus, the lighting, the shadows!) in the film is absolutely stunning.
Paired with the excellent audio quality and the orchestral score by Gillian Anderson, this release of Haxan is a must to add to your collection, especially if your taste tends toward the spookier side of cinema.
Haxan is a feature born in vignettes crafted from spectacular setpieces that must have put 1920s audiences in awe. It's a blend of dissertation on history and witch hunting practices and arcane beliefs in several parts, followed by a re-enactment of said practice or superstition.
There's much to love within the special features, including an introduction from Christensen himself, as well as the previous, 76-minute release of Haxan, Witchcraft Through the Ages, with narration by author William S. Burroughs. As always (or nearly always), Criterion has included booklet with essays on the film which are thoughtful and in depth.
- 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 (with the Blu-ray) an essay by scholar Chloé Germaine Buckley
Need Haxan in your life? I think you do. Add a little bit of witchy film history to collection by heading over to Criterion's site here.