Witchcraft Through the Ages | Chicago Reader

Witchcraft Through the Ages

A silent curiosity made in Denmark in 1922, with an episodic, rhetorical structure that would have appealed to Jean-Luc Godard. Director Benjamin Christensen apparently intended his film as a serious study of witchcraft (which he diagnoses, in an early pop-Freud conclusion, as female hysteria), but what he really has is a pretense for sadistic pornography. The film has acquired impact with age: instead of seeming quaint, the nude scenes and scatological references now have a crumbly, sinister quality—they seem the survivals of ancient, unhealthy imaginations. An ironic narration, written and performed in painful deadpan by William S. Burroughs, has been added to most of the circulating prints; it tends to narrow, rather than expand, the disturbing implications of the images.

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