Posts Tagged ‘The Golem’

The Golem (2018)

October 26, 2020

The golem is probably the most famous Jewish folktale figure when it comes to monsters and magic. It dates back to the Talmud, the earliest written copy of which was made in 1342 which gives it quite a bit of seniority amongst other monster tales. According to the Talmud, Adam (the first man) was golem before God made him into a human. Golems are animated husks of mud which do not have souls, speech, or free will. Throughout history, the tale of the golems grew and was expanded upon. Jewish mystics claimed that once a golem was formed, it could be given life and animation by inscribing on its forehead a “name of God”. If that inscription was erased, the Golem would cease to be. A few whispers of golems went through history but the first substantial story was The Golem of Chelm. In that account, a Rabbi Eliyahu brought a golem to life to do heavy labor. The most famous account is the Golem of Prague wherein Judah Loew ben Bezalel raised a golem to protect the ghettos of Prague from attacks. There are even stories of that golem rising again to fight Nazis.

It is a tale we have heard often since reflected in different ways. One of the big things about the tale of the golem is hubris. Somebody creates the golem with good intentions but must defeat the golem when it becomes dangerous. Frankenstein is a great secular example of this. In Mary Shelley’s book, the Monster is quite intelligent. However, in film adaptations for decades, the Monster was portrayed as basically a flesh golem. It is a mindless, unstoppable killer. A lot of robot horror and science fiction also follows this formula. The tales of Isaac Asimov talk about how humans created robots and end up being very wary or afraid of them. Unleashing something dangerous that can move around freely but does not have a conscience or restraint is very scary. In a certain way, a real-life example is artificial intelligence which can easily get out of control while just “following orders”.

The first thing I noticed was how good the special effects are. The first look at a golem is really special and they tease it by leaving it in shadow at first. The camera effects are really good from the beginning with my favorite play of light and shadow. They also use camera focus in ways that I was unfamiliar with. There is some gore at first but not a lot as a lot of it we are left to imagine it. Of course, that gore escalates as the movie goes on giving it more and more of an impact as the movie continues. This is a simple little horror movie and does not use many elaborate or flashy special effects. What does appear suits the film perfectly as a slow burn horror movie until it explodes into chaos.

Hani Furstenberg plays the hero of the movie and she is very likable and strong-willed. Her husband is played by Ishai Golan and he is gruff but likable in his way. The town Rabbi is played by Lenny Ravitz and I found his voice is instantly strong and interesting. However, he is also easy to dislike. The movie’s villain is played by Aleksey Tritenko, a sadistic yet relatable Russian enemy to a Jewish people. The titular character is played by Kirill Cernyakov and he does a great job at being a creepy little kid. His absolute silence and stillness are captivating and unnerving. Much of the acting is subdued and there is a lot of acting that is done silently. Furstenberg in particular is really good at saying everything she needs to with just a look.

Overall, I really liked this movie. It felt like a grounded version of a fairytale but also with a tinge of the old Universal horror movies. The drama of the humans drove the drama of the monster and not the other way around. It made for an interesting tale about grief and conflict while also being a good horror movie.

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