Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5
Original Title: Der Golem, wie er in die Welt kam
Germany, 1920. Projektions-AG Union. Screenplay by Henrik Galeen, Paul Wegener. Cinematography by Karl Freund, Guido Seeber. Produced by Paul Davidson. Music by Hans Landsberger, Lukasz Poleszak, Karl-Ernst Sasse, Aljoscha Zimmermann. Production Design by Hans Poelzig, Kurt Richter. Costume Design by Rochus Gliese.
Co-director Paul Wegener plays the title character, a mythical creature fashioned from clay and given life by Kabbalistic magic thanks to the divinations of a concerned Rabbi in sixteenth-century Prague. Reading the stars and seeing trouble ahead for his people, the religious teacher and his faithful servant conjure up the giant at the same time that an edict is handed down by the emperor declaring that Jews, who are already living separately in a walled-in ghetto, are to be stripped of all their rights. Taking the Golem to court where he has been requested to perform magic, the rabbi and his creation make trouble that threatens people’s lives and then save them from it, in doing so winning sympathy from the emperor for the Jews and saving their lives. When the creature then causes trouble at home, the rabbi is then exalted by his people for stopping him before he can destroy them as well. Filmed on gorgeous, giant sets (with Jewish ghetto life looking like a village at Disney world) and restored beautifully, this rendering of the legend that inspired Frankenstein features mystical beauty in its visuals, and more than its fair share of ironic humour in its telling (like the fact that the rabbi saves his people by undoing his own mischief, twice).