The Golem (1920)


This is the most exciting film I have seen of those made before “Kane.” It is far better than those usually clumped into the so-called expressionist movement, particularly better than “Caligari”.

The lighting, framing and rhythm of the thing is about of the same fine quality. Where is astounds is in the sets, which are Gaudi-esque. The Jews are portrayed in a darkly sensual, magical way… far different than the sly banker conspiracy that would later emerge. These Jews are spontaneously powerful, not deliberately so, and the matter is a curious milestone in the history leading to the holocaust.

But I’m more interested in its effect on film. Gaudi’s architectural ideas were based on the inherent magic of environmental clay and its movement. The Golem is very much in that tradition. And so is the magic of creating moving images. Three levels in each scene, perfectly folded. The final touch: the enveloping warmth of the Jewess comes from the director’s wife.

Absolutely the best film of 1920, and on my “must see” list.

Posted in 2004

Ted’s Evaluation — 4 of 3: Every cineliterate person should experience this.


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