The Golem ★★★★

The Golem is neither a straight retelling of the figure from Jewish folklore, nor is it a remake of the famous Paul Wegener silent film. It takes the familiar aspects of these tales and weaves new story which is a perfect challenge to audience expectations. The most obvious aspect of this is a visual challenge which perfectly serves the evolution of the story. Since the Golem in general is essentially an allegory for the danger of wish fulfillment, the added aspect of having a child Golem reveals the deepest longings of Hannah, the Jewess who studies Kabbalah in secret. Her small village exists in a precarious balance which is destroyed when a Christian nobleman accuses them of bringing the plague.

In an attempt to save her people, Hannah uses her forbidden knowledge to create a revenger from clay, who surprises her by taking the form of a young boy. We learn that Hannah lost a son, and her desire to protect the Golem is portrayed in a way that is highly unsettling when it could have easily veered into the melodramatic. The Golem is a killer devoid of conscience as this is a creation of man's magic rather than God's will, yet her desire to protect it is as real as the desire to protect the village. And when the village's elders gather to destroy it, the nobleman's raiders return to pillage and destroy. What takes place is a climax that I found riveting in its action as well as its emotionality.

I know my own love of folklore and mythology is coloring my view, yet The Golem is still a classy production that stands on its own. It neither plays into its expected path, nor shuns the very tradition from which it originates. And in my mind it's one of the best examples in recent memory of how to make a fine film on a very tight budget.