Review By Liam O brien, 3.5 out of 5
“The Golem! The Golem!”
Its nice to see the odd curio released on the shiny disc to add some substance to the dvd shelves at your local Virgin once in a while. DER GOLEM is one such little oddity, released only recently, fully remastered and cleared up for this digital age. A German film, released in 1920, DER GOLEM is the tale (based on a Jewish legend) of a Rabbi forced to breathe life into a clay creature (the golem) in order to save his people. Shot in black and white (but tinted in many instances, for example, the crimson of the burning Jewish ghetto) DER GOLEM is perhaps the original monster movie- FRANKENSTEIN Mk 1 if you will. The creature itself is played well by actor/director Paul Wegener- who had played the titular monster twice before elsewhere. Its imaginative, sumptuous looking stuff- the tinted pictures play like an enchanted story book- and that’s all this is, a ninety minute fairy tale, shot through with invention and an obvious love for the subject by director Wegener. The total absence of any spoken dialogue (I got my quote from the insert cards within the film) gives it a bizarre detached feel, the old film stock (showing its age despite restoration) gives DER GOLEM a dreamlike quality that films today struggle to match.
The story is in essence a parable about power, and how in the wrong hands it can be abused. The Golem is a suitably powerful presence, while its ultimate downfall is suitably tragic and subtle. There is little else that can be said about this strange little film- lavishly done, it draws you in and fills you with wonder. Its could be called dull by today’s standards- don’t go in looking for car chases and lashings of CGI. DER GOLEM is a potent reminder of the groundbreaking early stages of cinema, where it was more of an artform, not just a device through which one could make billions. Yes its dated, yes it is slow, but DER GOLEM is a simple story, well told.
THE DISC: A lovely menu, involving the rabbi opening a book of spells that leads to a spread of special features that’s better than I hoped for from a film that’s over 80 years old. Film historian R Dixon Smith provides an informative (if dry) audio essay on the film, while photo galleries, scene selections and dual language versions of the film complete a healthy, if not mind blowing package.
ANY GOOD?: Well worth a look, but it won’t be to everyone’s taste, with a leaden pace and little in the way of plot. It does, however, make a refreshing change from the tie in, franchise saturated world of 2003.
3.5 OUT OF FIVE.