Recent Thoughts 8.2.19

Long-time followers of this blog will know I have few kind words to say about noisy Twitter virtue-signallers. This week I make no exception. Liam Neeson has admitted to, when he was younger, intentionally seeking to provoke a fight with a black person so that he could kill them, after a close friend of his was raped by someone of that race. This is an undoubtedly wicked thing to do, and Mr Neeson made this admission out of shame. "It was horrible, horrible, when I think back, that I did that". However, some of the self-righteous Twitter reactions I have seen make me want to puke. We all have skeletons in the cupboard, and anyone who claims they don't is lying. Liam Neeson was brave, incredibly brave (or perhaps incredibly foolish), to admit to what he did.


Above: a still from Häxan (1922).
Is the 1922 German horror Nosferatu just a tad overrated? I undoubtedly enjoyed it when I was a boy, but having re-watched it a few weeks ago I surprisingly found myself quite bored. It has some brilliant moments, especially the finale (which is truly powerful and scary to this day), but it also has some moments that I would call cheesy and campy if they were in films of any other era. Film critics seem to give Nosferatu an easy ride due to its age. Indeed, surely it would have been more frightening at the time of its release, when film was still an astonishing, almost supernatural new invention; when audiences would watch it in dark cinemas with energetic live orchestras to pump up their emotions. Viewing it on your own on YouTube in the 2010's, after a century of ever-advancing special effects, of course will never provoke quite the same reaction. But only the night before I re-watched Nosferatu, I for the first time watched Häxan, a lesser-known Swedish-Danish horror film released in the same year. And Häxan, unlike its German counterpart, requires no modern excuses or easy rides. It's just as grim today as it was nigh on a hundred years ago. It's also educational and a fascinating blend of documentary and horror. And the horror is all the more disturbing in that it's all true - Häxan is Benjamin Christensen's exploration of beliefs in witchcraft in the Middle Ages. It was banned in the United States at the time of release which I think is unfair - I'm not a great fan of gore but I think the full horror of real history needs to be shown so that we may learn from it. In any case, if you ever have a choice between watching Murnau's Nosferatu and Christensen's Häxan, this is my recommendation.