Der Golem DVD
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Directed by Paul Wegener
Produced in 1920
Main Language - SILENT
Ernst Deutsch, Paul Wegener
Even today the setting of this UFA production is impressive. Hans Poelzig’s recreation of the Prague ghetto is in a style one might call organic expressionism with the twisted vegetal forms of house interiors and textures of walls and surfaces lovingly highlighted.
Director Paul Wegener himself plays the role of the increasingly irascible Golem, created by Rabbi Loew to protect the Jewish community, with clear relish. From the moment of his creation he has the air of not suffering fools gladly and he carries out his commands as though his own free will is ever on the verge of bubbling into consciousness. His role is also a telling precursor to Whale’s 1931 depiction of Frankenstein’s monster, which clearly borrowed the lumbering and unsteady gait, and a look that can show innocent delight in a flower but that terrifies those around him.
It is a film in which all the main characters are somehow compromised. Rabbi Loew has no qualms about calling up demons or displaying his ancestors to please the Emperor, his daughter Miriam has no qualms about going to bed with the gentile courtier, Famulus the assistant has no qualms about setting the Golem onto the courtier through jealousy and then of conspiring with Miriam to cover the whole thing up. Even the Emperor is seen on his knees pleading with the Golem to save them from a crumbling building. Pragmatism is at the root of all action.
Unsurprisingly for the period the characterisation teeters on stereotyping, while the acting style, though obviously dated, is a fascinating look at the methods of expressionist theatre. Der Golem is a welcome addition to the increasing range of restored silent cinema available.
Graeme Hobbs on 6th November 2003
Author of 285 reviews
From the golden era of German silent film comes a tale of the Golem, a giant man of clay constructed by a Rabbi to defend his people from plunder and massacre. Set in 16th Century Prague, the staging is truly amazing and the portrayal of the Golem himself was also a clear influence on Whale's later 'Frankenstein'.
Publisher: Eureka / Masters of Cinema
Length: 84 mins
Aspect ratio: 4:3
Format: DVD B&W
Released: 15th September 2003
Cat No: EKA40065
Subtitles: English, German
- Audio essay by R Dixon Smith
- Photo Gallery
- English or German intertitles.