Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Golem

The Golem is not as well known as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari or Nosferatu but it stands up well in comparison to these and other classics of German silent expressionist cinema. Google has the entire video of the film (in a reasonably good print) here.

It is basically the same story as Frankenstein, though much simplified. What makes it interesting is the Jewish cultural context and also the political elements. Seigfried Kracauer in his classic study of early German cinema From Caligari to Hitler uses this film also to support his thesis that the portents of the collapse of the Weimar republic and the coming of political chaos and irrationality were already present in the expressionist cinema of the period. A nice short essay on the film here.

Sometime back I also got hold of a German novel The Golem written by Gastav Meyrink at a used books store. It was first published in 1914. It looked very interesting but I haven't had any chance to read it yet. While browsing today I also came to know that Isaac Baashevis Singer and Elie Wiesel, both nobel laureates, have written versions of the Golem story too! Amazon link here and here.

7 comments:

Space Bar said...

ah...thanks for the link to the film. never seen it and shall watch asap.

Alok said...

hope you like it...!

stev said...

personally, I think Kracauer's contempt on the finest era of german cinema tends to sophistry with an aim to defend his view.

Thanks for the link. Did not know that full-length movies come up on google-video...

KUBLA KHAN said...

hi alok
i have been away. nice to read ur posts and find that u are as prolific as ever.
i find that u have been reading holocaust lit. etc
anyway, well done. keep posting and hope to meet you here more often.

Alok said...

stev: i don't think it was contempt for the movies themselves... Kracauer was obviously critical of the politics and the German society, and all for the right reasons and understandably so.

kubla: hi, nice to see you back. writing here doesnt take too much effort really. just half baked and borrowed thoughts from everywhere to be honest...

stev said...

alok: by contributing it to expressionism in cinema?! kracauer has his own visions and opinions about movies - he is an exponent of the realist view of cinema. Per his view, films must depict reality as-is, and is not a means for abstractions or a medium of an artist's expression. 1930's German expressionism, per him, contributed to Hitler's rise in germany and thus the damnation of the german life by diverting them of the social realities - and thus, as per his view, such films are not what movies should be about! In other words, throw away fassbinder, bergman, antonioni, bunuel, fellini, et al.! :) But, seriously, if that isn't sophistry (with undertones of contempt) to help his realist views on cinema, then...!

Alok said...

It's been a while since i read that book (actually i read only parts of it) but I do remember that he was only criticising the social psychology of that time as reflected in those movies and not the movies themselves. He was saying that in the end Germans got what they wanted and that collective irrationality, craving for authority and delusions of grandeur mixed with extreme resentment, all of which led to so much chaos and destruction, all of these were already present in the German society of the 20s.

I agree that he has lots of grand sounding theories and he backs most of these up with ham handed post facto rationalization but I think his core idea still is very interesting. In fact this is considered a standard book for the social cultural history of Germany of that time.