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Medieval to modern: The Garrys breathe new life into Häxan

By in Culture
Creative Commons | Fae

Enduring persecution and misdiagnosis, women have gone through witch hunts and medical malpractice under the guise of Satanism or sexism for centuries. 

The fear of what women do behind closed doors has permeated popular culture throughout the ages. Women in history have always been policed, the methods have just changed over time. 

In medieval Europe, women were burned at the stake if they were suspected of performing witchcraft. The Catholic Church would pull out the standardized handbook on hammering out witches — or in latin, Malleus Mallifacarum — to prove that a woman was in fact a witch. 

Women were taken into custody and tortured until they admitted their witchcraft. But times have changed since the Roman Catholic Inquisition. In the early 20th century, women were no longer accused of Satanism — instead, they were found to be mentally unstable. 

In Benjamin Christenson’s 1922 cult classic film, Häxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages, the fictionalized documentary boasts about modern medical science now having the solutions to navigate the age-old problem of female irrationality: hysteria. 

While the film’s message is outdated today, the Roxy Theatre’s screening of the silent movie to a sold-out theatre provides a juxtaposition of old and modern by having the film accompanied by all-female local rock band The Garrys. 

Having a female band compose and perform the score to a movie about persecuting women was an interesting commentary on how far society has come since the film’s release. 

The screening was a rare experience. The Roxy has been screening silent films for the past few years, but this was unique. 

Past accompaniments have been the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra or solo pianists that have a polished sound. The Garrys’ score was gritty, and although it didn’t match the era of the film, it felt like a fitting match. The modern touch gave new life to the almost century-old film.

Instead of streaming it on your laptop at home, the atmosphere at the Roxy was electric. Hearing the audience laugh in unison or applaud for the band made the experience more lively. Some members of the audience dressed up in witch costumes, completing the spooky portrait of the cold Halloween night. 

The vignettes of this fictionalized documentary are separated into seven parts. As your attention gets absorbed by the film, it is easy to forget that there is a group of musicians working off of the dimly-lit sheet music, which they composed specifically for the film. 

The title card of the film illustrates the catch-22 women face: “it is dangerous to be old and ugly, but also to be young and pretty.”

Nykole King/ Editor-In-Chief

Photo: Creative Commons | Fae

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