Must-watch Mondays

The top three films you should be watching this week

This week: Films with Witches

With Easter wrapping up, we figured what better than to feature an Easter theme in this weeks must-watch Monday. However, it’s rather hard to track down films with Easter bunnies.

Then we were reminded of an amazing Swedish/Finnish Easter tradition. From Time.com:

Many of the things you don’t know about Easter have to do with odd, intensely national Holy Week traditions. So why not start off with the most unexpected one — the Easter Witch. In Sweden and parts of Finland, a mini-Halloween takes place on either the Thursday or Saturday before Easter. Little girls dress up in rags and old clothes, too-big skirts and shawls and go door to door with a copper kettle looking for treats.

The tradition is said to come from the old belief that witches would fly to a German mountain the Thursday before Easter to cavort with Satan. On their way back, Swedes would light fires to scare them away, a practice honored today by the bonfires and fireworks across the land in the days leading up to Sunday.

So here are the top three films featuring witches! We’ve selected the top three historically relevant films from some of the greatest Scandinavian filmmakers.

Haxan and Vampyr

1. Haxan

A historical view of witchcraft in seven parts and a variety of styles. First, there is a slide-show alternating inter-titles with drawings and paintings to illustrate the behavior of pagan cultures in the Middle Ages regarding their vision of demons and witches. Then there is a dramatization of the situation of the witches in the Middle Ages, witchcraft and witch-hunts. Finally the film compares the behavior of hysteria of contemporary (1921) women with the behavior of the witches in the Middle Ages, concluding that they are very similar.

Haxan is an easy first pick – mostly because it is a documentary on witchcraft in  Europe. Besides that, it is one of the classic silent films and widely regarded as a cult classic. Check out Benjamin Christensen‘s masterpiece!

 

2. Day of Wrath

day-of-wrath-1-copyIn a 17th-century Danish village, an old woman is accused of witchcraft. In the shadow of her flight, capture, confession, and burning at the stake, the young wife of the town’s aging pastor falls in love with the pastor’s son. Her confession of this illicit affair to her husband brings on her husband’s death. At the funeral the pastor’s mother denounces the young widow as a witch. Will the widow’s lover come to her defense, or has the day of wrath returned?

This is probably one of Carl Dreyer‘s most famous films. Many film historians say Dreyer used the witch motif as a symbol of Nazis in Europe, which makes more sense knowing the film came out in 1943. Dreyer has dismissed the claims, but this is still a great witch film!

 

3. The Seventh Seal

seventhsealconfessionA Knight and his squire are home from the crusades. Black Death is sweeping their country. As they approach home, Death appears to the knight and tells him it is his time. The knight challenges Death to a chess game for his life. The Knight and Death play as the cultural turmoil envelopes the people around them as they try, in different ways, to deal with the upheaval the plague has caused.

 

Ingmar Bergman’s classic The Seventh Seal covers various aspects of the medieval times with the plague as a central focus. While witchcraft is not a central theme to the story, there is an excellent commentary on witchcraft and religion that we find rather relevant to include in this list. We have heaps of articles on this film if you’d like to learn more.

 

All of these films are available on DVD with subs. There are some incredible editions available at Criterion. Find them here:

 

Email us your lists to contribute@cinemascandinavia.com