Häxan (by MEMORIALS)

Live film score from Verity Susman & Matthew Simms(MEMORIALS)

Supposedly intended as a moral education tool, Häxan instead is ripe, bawdy, and more than likely to give you sympathy for the devil. Director Benjamin Christiansen took the Malleus Maleficarum – the medieval witch finder’s handbook – and made a documentary on witches. Having it deliciously both ways, Christiansen’s film gives us incubuses seducing maidens, medieval torture devices and witches’ sabbaths, while also unpacking the myth of the witch as a tool of oppression.

Full of sumptuous recreations – in brilliant red and blue filters – of witch burnings, goblin parties and ostentatious devilry, on its release Häxan was the most expensive Swedish film yet made. A phantasmagoria worthy of William Blake or Albrecht Durer, it’s guaranteed to make you look askance at a church gargoyle and see silent film in a new light.

An enthralling mix of documentary and fiction, this early horror film explores the history of witchcraft from its earliest days through to 1922 (when the film was first released). It shows representations of evil in a variety of ancient and medieval artworks, offers vignettes illustrating a number of superstitious practices, demonology, and satanism, and presents a spine-chilling narrative about the persecution of a woman accused of witchcraft.

Performing Live: MEMORIALS Verity Susman (Electrelane) and Matthew Simms (Wire)