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Witchcraft and Cinema

26th October 2015

It’s that time of the year again! Halloween is soon upon us, so let us ignore the trick or treaters, bar the doors, and settle down with a good book. Originally produced in 1922, Benjamin Christensen’s Häxan, or, The Witch, is a unique film in the history of cinema in that it combines scientific analysis with staged historical scenes of satanic initiation, confession under torture, possession, and persecution, to create a humanist re-evaluation of witchcraft in European history, as well as the contemporary treatment of female “hysterics” and the mentally ill.

Richard Baxstrom and Todd Meyers look at The Witch in their new book Realizing the Witch, specifically in regards to how the film opened debates into the relationship of film to scientific evidence, the evolving study of religion from historical and anthropological perspectives, and the relationship between popular culture, artistic expression, and concepts in medicine and psychology. It is noted that The Witch is a film that moves along the path of art and science, rather than the more common division of “documentary” and “fiction.”

“Realizing the Witch not only illustrates the underrated importance of the film within the canons of classic cinema, it lays bare the relation of the invisible to that which we cannot prove but nevertheless ‘know’ to be there.”

Check out the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit’s book launch and movie screening on October 28th, and Book Culture’s reading and discussion of Realizing the Witch on November 24th. To learn more about “the mastery of the invisible,” take a look at Fordham University Press’ website and our Pinterest page.