Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Golem: A Celebration of Judaism

Golem-blogging, essay 20 of 21 

Rabbi Loew gives thanks to God at the end of The Golem (1920).
A Celebration of Judaism

The Golem at the
Most people assume that the little girl is solely responsible for stopping the Golem. This assumption says more about the primacy of current secular worldviews than it does about the actual content of the movie.

When the Jews gather for prayer near the beginning of The Golem (1920) and during the fire scene at the end, the movie grants them much respect. Just compare the dignity of these scenes with the shallow frippery of the scenes at the imperial court. The movie is as fascinated by prayer as it is by magic, and the entire narrative takes place in a world where spiritual forces are very real and to be respected.

This is why I think we are expected to accept the Rabbi’s final statement at face value. He tells his people to thank Jehovah for saving them three times that day, referring to their salvation from the imperial
edict, salvation from the fire that
The Rabbi reunited with his daughter.
threatened to engulf the entire ghetto, and salvation from the threat of the rampaging Golem. God receives credit for all three deliverances. In the context of a movie deeply steeped in the world of prayer and the supernatural, I don’t think this should be lightly dismissed. In the Rabbi’s mind, God’s plan was worked through the girl. At this point, the Rabbi is the spokesperson for the film itself, much like Carl Denham when he delivers his final, conclusive word on Kong (“Twas beauty killed the beast.”).

In fact, the movie dissolves from the Rabbi and his people to its concluding image, the Star of David. The filmmakers weren’t Jewish but I think they were deeply fascinated by Judaism as a form of exoticism. They were acquainted with currently popular occult books and were fascinated by the whole idea of the spiritual world intersecting with reality. I think they welcomed this imagined fantasy world of Kabbalistic Judaism as a truly exciting way to view the world.

That final image of the Star of David serves to underscore the Rabbi’s openly expressed statement of faith. It ends the film triumphantly with an image that celebrates Judaism, both as a religion and as a culture capable of generating wonderful stories such as this one. 

The closing shot of The Golem.

Watch The Golem (1920):
Purchase through Kino International
or at Amazon,
rent through Netflix,
or sneak a peek at YouTube.

© 2011 Lee Price

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