THE GOLEM (HAGOLEM)
(directors: Doron Paz, Yoav Paz; screenwriter: Ariel Cohen; cinematographer: Rotem Yaron; editors: Einat Glaser-Zarhin, Itamar Goldwasser; music: Tal Yardeni; cast: Hani Furstenberg (Hanna), Ishai Golan (Benjamin), Brynie Furstenberg (Perla), Adi Kvetner (Jacob), Lenny Ravich (Horrovits), Alex Tritenko (Vladimir), Konstantin Anikienko(Golem); Runtime: 94; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Shalom Eisenbach; Epic Pictures; 2018-Israel-in English)
“Richly serves up a parable on Jewish folklore worth savoring.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Doron Paz and Yoav Paz (“JeruZalem”) are the Israeli sibling directors of this absorbing supernatural tale of redemption rooted in ancient Jewish lore and made timely again because of the rise of anti-Semitism in recent times, especially in Europe. The Golem was a creature created from earth by a rabbi in 16th-century Prague (who deciphers the 72 words to release the hidden name of God). It was popularized in the 1920 film by a visually powerful German silent classic directed by the Prussian-born Paul Wegener. It’s set in a remote 17-century shtetl (village) in Lithuania surrounded by vengeful outsiders who blame the Jews for the plague which has devastated their village. Their leader (Alex Tritenko) demands either the Jewish medicine woman Perla (Brynie Furstenberg) saves his sick daughter’s life, or he and his men will kill them all and burn their village to the ground. After their son’s death years ago, Hanna (Hani Furstenberg) and her loving husband Benjamin (Ishai Golan), try but fail to conceive again. Thereby Hanna uses her knowledge of Jewish mysticism to create a Golem (Konstantin Anikienko), a supernatural protector in the form of her dead son. While it works against outsiders, to her dismay it also becomes a threat to her husband and the Jewish village. During a clash with the incendiary gentiles, which their rabbi warned them not to do, the Golem shockingly wields his power and things get bloody–setting off a cycle of violence not only for the hostiles but for the shetetl. The period piece is darkly atmospheric in a gothic milieu, unpredictable as to narrative (different from other film versions) and richly serves up a parable on Jewish folklore worth savoring. The narrative is less scary than beautifully visual and provocative. It’s a horror film with a brain and a purpose.
REVIEWED ON 3/1/2019 GRADE: B+ https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/