The Golem (Der Golem, wie er in die Welt kam) (1920)
Reviewed on 2010 October 26
This is the 1920 version of Paul Wegener’s take on the ancient tale of a clay warrior run amok. As far as I can tell his 1914 version is gone, but there are several releases of this movie, and for Halloween I went with a nice Kino Video edition.
Rabbi Loew (Albert Steinruck) sees a frightening omen in the stars: the Jewish community of Prague, circa 1600, is in danger, courtesy of Rudolf II. He consults Rabbi Jehuda (Hans Sturm) and they get the elders of the community to pray in the temple, but sure enough, an edict is soon issued that all Jews must evacuate their community. In one of the freakiest sequences I’ve ever seen the rabbis decide to unleash the most powerful weapon they can: a Golem, or man made of clay (director Paul Wegener does double duty here). It looks like their creation will protect them — would you pick a fight with that thing? — until one of their men decides to use the Golem to do his own bidding.
I loved the Expressionist set designs; think of a Disney village designed by Bosch. The special effects were very well done for such an early film, and even the overly-emotive silent movie acting wasn’t so distracting here, since the thing was so surreal anyway. It’s not scary now, but back then I’m sure it spooked people. I love Wegener’s cold eyes glaring out from all that clay. I understand that something so old probably isn’t exciting to today’s audience, but if you’re into film or myths it’s worth a look. For what it was and when it was created, it’s quite something.
Three chocolate morsels.