Monday, April 30, 2007

Der Golem (1)

Been spending time with Paul Wegener's silent classic, Der Golem: Wie Er in der Welt Kam (1920). (That's Wegener as the Golem at the left.)

The Golem hasn't slipped under the cultural skin the way Frankenstein or Nosferatu did. He's sort of a bad cinematic bet—robotically slow, with a silly stone pageboy and beer keg torso that endow him with a strong underdog appeal. I'm intrigued by how willfully 'anti-cinematic' the film is: a study in heavy doors, massy walls (to separate the Jewish ghetto from imperial Prague, and the Rabbi's daughter from the sexual intrusion of the randy blonde courtier, Florian), close Expressionist interiors, and the Golem himself, awkwardly hominid, barely ambulatory: all clay, no breath. He's a sculpture trapped in a time-bound form.

The effect is weirdly syrupy and liturgical, like everyone's moving underwater. Time thickens and becomes nearly physical: there's barely a moment in the film where you're not aware of light being pushed through emulsions. That Wegener, Penal Colony-style, entered his own creation to play the Golem adds to the appeal—the auteur as misunderstood monster, disappeared into his own film.


Nicholas Manning said...

Quite a nice simpson's rip-off of this, transgressing one or two pc boundaries:

Krusty: "The Golem: legendary defender of the Jewish people. Like Alan Dershowitz, but with a conscience."

Hayes said...

Bravo on the really makes you out, as the author of Musee, and i must agree, to be a kind of historian of the future...or curator of the future...i don't know if you agree with all of this but to my reading of the book and of the review that you are working from an historical materialism as it exists in our sped up modernity. Thanks for the link!!

Section V of Theses on the Philosophy of History, by Walter Benjamin:

"The true picture of the past flits by. The past can be seized only as an image which flashes up at the instant when it can be recognized and is never seen again. 'The truth will not run away from us': in the historical outlook of historicism these words of Gottfried Keller mark the exact point where historical materialism cuts through historicism. For every image of the past that is not recognized by the present as one of its own concerns threatens to dissappear irretrievably. (The good tidings which the historian of the past brings with throbbing heart may be lost in a void the very moment he opens his mouth.)"