Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Golem (1920)

Or, "Der Golem,wie er in die Welt kam".

The story of how the Golem came into the world is told in five Phapters. In 16th century Prague, Rabbi Low melodramatically reads in the stars disaster for the Jewish people, possibly by annoying violins. The next day the king melodramatically orders a decree evicting all Jews from the ghetto. Their crimes are listed as killing Jesus, not observing Christian celebrations, and using black magic. First two, well yea, guilty as charged. But black magic?

To defend his people, Rabbi Low melodramatically creates a circle of fire to summon a melodramatic demon and demands it to give him a magic word that will make a giant clay monster come to life. Sure, but black magic? Nonsense.

Somewhere around Phapter 3 Rabbi brings his melodramatic monster (ok, I'm going to dispense with the melodrama, I think you get the point) to the king (or whatever) to plead his case. During his magic history slide show, the building starts to collapse and kingie says he will spare the Jews if he saves him. So Golem holds up the beam and everyone lived happily ever after.

In Phapter 4 Rabbi Low deactivates Golem because he will become evil. However, some sort of love triangle is going on and a temple lackey (I'll call him Ygor) decides to reactivate clay man and sics him on his rival. Things don't turn out that well. Rival takes a brief flight and Golem runs off with precious Miriam (he drags her cave man style, rather than the conventional Frankenstein/Mummy/Gil Man/Klattu mode).

So (I suppose we're up to Phapter 5 by now) the village is burning and Low must do his fire dance (which puts fires OUT, go figure) to save the ghetto. Meanwhile, a little girl kills the monster. Roll credits.

This is actually the third of the Golem movies. The first two no longer exist save for brief clips available on YouTube. This is likely the best of the three anyhow as it's the one the writer/director wanted to make all along. And by writer/director, I meant the dude who played The Golem. This is the retelling of the Jewish folk tale. The other two were set in the modern day.

The sets were interesting. Very expressionistic. The acting, well, a little over the top. But this movie is remembered for two reasons. One, it's the obvious predecessor of Frankenstein (both in film and in literature), but mostly because of it's depiction of the Jewish struggle with prosecution a decade leading up to the Nazi raise to power. It's very historically interesting.

A little tiring to watch, however. I saw the first three Phapters then fell asleep, and saw the rest the following day. I am glad I watched it because of it's historical legacy, and in the end it held my interest, but with few title cards (and in a hard to read, old-timey font) the story must be followed by the ridiculous acting. During the love triangle part of the story, I didn't know if Miriam actually liked the poof or if she was pretending to as a favor to her father (it was the former).

Two silent movies in a row, a new record. When writing up Laugh, Clown, Laugh, I actually had to re-edit the post because I forgot to use the SILENT label. I had actually forgotten it was a silent movie. With Der Golem, you don't forget that fact. AMRU 3.

No comments:

Post a Comment