Häxan

In 2022 Queen’s Film Theatre Belfast commissioned Nick Carlisle to create a new score for the Benjamin Christensen film Häxan, on its centenary. Performed alone by Nick on Prophet 5 synthesizer, Mellotron & MacBook Pro, the score received a rapturous response following its premiere as part of the In Dreams Are Monsters season of horror films. More “Häxan With Live Score By Nick Carlisle” performances are planned for 2023-24. An album of highlights, “Häxan – A Soundtrack” was released November 2022, available digital / CD formats.

THE FILM 

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. 

Häxan With Live Score By Nick Carlisle: Nick recording harpsichord for the track "The Scourge", taken from the album "Häxan - A Soundtrack".
Recording harpsichord for the reworked track “The Scourge”, summer 2023. Harpsichord built by Andrew Garlick of Somerset, kindly lent by Maggie Cole. Photo by Richard Macphail.
THE MUSIC 

“I was delighted to be asked to compose for this project. I previously played in a band called ‘Katy and Nick’ which had quite a sinister feel, where Mellotron cellos and strangely medieval clarion calls inhabited a kind of fever dream space. So Häxan in many ways doesn’t feel like such a foreign place to visit. I took the decision to keep only a loose eye on the sounds and styles I would use; there is the odd reference to the European shamanic Sámi drum, and the doomy Mellotron and synthesisers used are played in such a way to squeeze them more or less into a 15th Century timeframe. But in the main, since the film ultimately deals with the pitfalls of human ignorance and imagination, I relied on my own to lead the way, for better or worse.” – Nick

A short promotional film for Mellotron, where Nick discusses recording the soundtrack.

More “Häxan With Live Score By Nick Carlisle” performances are scheduled for 2023-24. Nick returned to Queen’s Film Theatre, Belfast and made his debut at the Ulster Folk Museum Picture House, Holywood for a sold out performance. A date was added at the Barbican Centre in London on 28th January 2024 which quickly sold out so a second performance was added for the same day, which also sold out in 48 hours. Nick brought the show to the Duke Of York’s Picturehouse, Brighton on the 15th June 2024. More to come…

See all currently scheduled performance dates

“Häxan With Live Score By Nick Carlisle” PreviOUS Performances:
24.11.22Queen’s Film Theatre, Belfast
31.10.23 Ulster Folk Museum Picture House, Holywood (SOLD OUT)
2.11.23 Queen’s Film Theatre, Belfast
28.1.24The Barbican Centre, London (2 consecutive shows SOLD OUT)
15.6.24The Duke Of York’s Picturehouse, Brighton
"Häxan With Live Score By Nick Carlisle" at the Barbican, 28th January 2024. Photo by Cat Wood-Evans.
“Häxan With Live Score By Nick Carlisle” at the Barbican, 28th January 2024. Photo by Cat Wood-Evans.

Background Häxan image © AB Svensk Filmindustri (1922) Photo: Johan Ankerstjerne