Archive of films The Golem / Le Golem
Czechoslovakia / France
1936, 90 min
Section: Treasures from the European Film Archives
A dramatic story from the Rudolfine era, filmed in a Czech-French coproduction. The legendary Golem is brought to life once more in order to free the Jewish people from their servitude.
The Golem myth has been a permanent part of filmmaking since its early days. The first in film to be enchanted by the old Prague legend was German actor and director Paul Wegener. In the second decade of the last century he appeared on screen no less than three times as the amorphous artificial being given life by Rabbi Löw. Since then the subject has cropped up in nearly every decade, in different variants, different genres, both serious and comic, and with different denotative subtexts. Some filmmakers have worked with the original legend, others adapted the novel The Golem by Prague writer Gustav Meyrink.The Prague legend is the basis of Julien Duvivier’s The Golem. The story takes place after Rabbi Löw’s death: when brought to life, his masterwork is to liberate the Jews from slavery and guarantee their freedom. Czech film legends Jiří Voskovec and Jan Werich contributed to the story and were supposed to star but things turned out otherwise. Duvivier cast Harry Baur as Emperor Rudolf II and Ferdinand Hart as the Golem; both choices were propitious. Baur’s Rudolf is a superb character study of a timid but despotic man who oscillates between emotion and the fear of death as foretold by the stars. Hart’s Golem is brought to life for a noble purpose but, once awakened, becomes a destructive power wrecking only havoc.
Duvivier did not use authentic Prague exteriors in his film; 1930’s film technology would hardly have allowed him to develop large crowd scenes in the streets of Prague, such as Jewish gatherings, clashes with soldiers and the like. Therefore, important tasks were left to art director André Andrejev in creating the set design and scenery, and to Czech cameramen Jan Stallich and Václav Vích. The three share credit for supplying the needed ambience to a gloomy film “in which there isn’t one sympathetic character” (Dr O. Rádl: “Golem,” Kinorevue, II, 1935-1936, p. 16). The movie is stil engaging today for its exciting and mysterious atmosphere of contrasts between the search for gold and the elixir of life on the one hand and the struggle for freedom on the other.
For many years The Golem was screened in a cut version with poor image quality, something even Dr Rádl pointed out in the above-cited article: “Every dark is too dark, and every light is too light.” The National Film Archive used a nitrate positive print 400 meters longer than the print surviving from the 1930s. They had a copy made at Barrandov studios with a more balanced greyscale and added footage. Blažena Urgošíková
About the film
Black & white, 35 mm
|Section:||Treasures from the European Film Archives|
|Screenplay:||André-Paul Antoine, Julien Duvivier, Josef Kodíček|
|Dir. of Photography:||Jan Stallich, Václav Vích|
|Cast:||Harry Baur, Ferdinand Hart, Roger Karl, Charles Dorat, Germaine Aussey, Jany Holt, Tania Doll (Truda Grosslichtová), Stanislav Neumann, Karel Schleichert, Antonín Jirsa, Karel Černý|
|Contact:||National Film Archive|
Film Institution Rep.