Feature Drama | 1920 | Silent | B/W
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'The Golem'. Classic horror story set in 16th century Prague. Studies on this film relate to the fact of its Jewish subject matter and the anti-Semitism of the pre- Nazi era in Germany 1920's
Two men manouver a heavy bundle in the shape of a man up a steep hill. They lift it through a small trapdoor in the floor of a bare room. An older man, dressed in a long robe with a long white beard, clenches the shoulders of the younger man saying "Guard this secret with your life." The boy looks around, wide eyed, then nods. They unwrap the bindings of the figure and struggle to carry it through a low archway. Leaving it propped against a wall, they close the door. The old man sticks his head out of the window. Far below, people bustle about in the sunshine. The old man wanders back to where the boy stands nervously. Locking the door to the room, he motions the boy to gather up the disgarded bandages. In a sunlit room, the old man leafs through a heavy book. Sat next to him, the boy looks on, entranced. They reach the right page - "Astaroth guards the magic word which can endow even clay with life. He who posesses the key of Solomon can force Astaroth to reveal the word, if he observes a favorable conjunction of the planets." Pushing the boy aside, the old man firmly closes the book. He picks up a small hollow metal star and stuffs some items inside it, standing up. The sleeping face of the mysterious figure. The old man gestures to the heavens and beckons the boy to follow him. Hesitantly, the boy creeps behind. When he, shaking, stops and puts his hands to his face, the old man wrenches them away and pulls him after him. They duck under some beams and stand next to the figure. It towers several feet above the other men and is monotone, as if carved. The old man stands in the centre of the dark room, a light full on his face. He gestures with a wand. He wears a tall intricately patterned head dress. From the side, on a pale floor, he draws an imaginary circle around him with the staff. Suddenly, as he stands still, flames rise in a circle around him. He is lit only by this. He raises his arms. He calls the boy, who stands cowering behind, and pulls him inside the circle with him. The magician waves a star shaped object about their heads.
Suddenly, the boy looks around, fear in his eyes. Balls of fire bob around their heads. The old man holds up the star. The boy, overcome, falls to his knees. The magician, surrounded in smoke, holds up the star and shouts "Astaroth, Astaroth, appear, appear! Speak the word!" Close up of the old mans trembling face, his eyes are pale. Next to him, a terrifying disembodied face appears. Close up of it. Its eyes bulge, smoke issues from its mouth. The old man shouts at it. The smoke from the creatures lips forms the word 'Aemaet'. The old man, in a frenzy, throws the star, falling over the boys limp body. He shouts up to the heavens and throws his hat. Suddenly, the circle explodes in a ball of fire. The old man, in normal light, staggers to his feet. From outside, smoke pours from the windows of the magicians room. As the smoke rises, the man helps the boy to his feet. The boy lies limp in his arms, and the man sits him up in a chair. As the magician, in a frenzy, shakes him and shouts, the boy comes to. The man snatches up his pen and goes to write, but the boy holds him back. The old man struggles free and writes shakily in thick ink -'Aemaet'. He rushes over to where the figure stands propped against the wall.The boy follows and together they lift it and stand it up in the center of the room. The old man, in close up, folds up the piece of paper on which he has written the name, and stuffs it with the other items in the hollow star which he goes and carefully fixes to the figures chest. Suddenly its eyes flicker open. The boy runs in fear. The old man too, stumbles back, afraid. Hesitantly, the golem rocks, then steps forward. He walks to the old mans side. The magician points, giving instructions. The boy, entranced, stands in front of the golem, watching. When he gets in the way, the golem, with a push, flings him to the ground. The magician, raising his arms, shouts after the golem, who turns to listen. The old man wrenches the star from the figures chest and he falls limp against the wall. The boy staggers to his feet and they both raise their hands to the skies. "News of the magicians supernatural triumph travels fast, and soon the entire village is rejoicing over its unearthly ally." A woman in black plaits down to the ground and a man crouch looking out of an arched window in an intricately painted room. In the village, people line the streets cheering and waving banners. They all join together and march towards the synagogue.
The boy, wearing a pointed hat, runs the other way and stops, looking up at a high window -"I will be the first to bring the joyfull news to Miriam!" He runs through the arched doorway of the house and bangs on Miriams bedroom door. Miriam, wild-eyed with long plaits, listens through the door then shouts back to the boy "I am not ready. Go and I will follow you." The boy, beaming to himself, shakes his head, saying "No, I will wait and take you to the synagogue." The girl in her nightdress on the other side of the door panics. The boy bats his eyelashes and smiles. A man rushes to Miriams side in her room. Miriam hushes him and covers his mouth for fear that the boy will hear. But outside the door, the boy listens intently, his face clouding over. He puts his ear to the door, then, rolling his eyes, creeps away. He runs to the magicians room, rifling through his papers while the golem lies nearby. Eventually, he finds the star badge and pins it to the golems chest. The monster slowly becomes upright and turns his head to see the boy, who crouches behind a table in fear. He shouts to the golem "In there is a stranger who has brought shame on us. Sieze him!" The golem stands for a moment then jerkily walks off. He reaches the door to Miriams room. The boy standing behind him, encourages him on. The golem bangs on the door. Inside, Miriam and the staranger cower together. The golem looks at the boy who gestures him to knock down the door. Inside, Miriam shrieks with fear as the golem struts in, his arms through the door. The boy, hiding behind the door, looks on, smiling, whispering directions to the golem.
The stranger siezes up a dagger and runs at the golem who stands watching. He charges forwards, but finding that the knife snaps off on the monsters chest, he backs away. The golem grabs hold of Miriams plaits and pulls her behind him. Eventually, she faints and the stranger rushes to her aid, but the golem throws him to the ground. The boy points after the man and the golem struts off. The man races down the set of steps carved into the rock. The golem walks slowly after him. He chases him around and back up the stairs. Meanwhile, Miriam lies on the floor of her room, the boy goes to comfort her but she sits up, looking after the man. The boy tries to hold her, but she pulls herself free and rushes after him. From the distance, the wobbly tower that is Miriam and the magicians home, rising up above the other houses in the village. The stranger stands at the top of the tower. He crouches in the corner, holding his broken dagger before him. The golems head slowly appears from the set of steps in the floor. Seen from outside the tower, the man tries to back away as the golem approaches. He raises his dagger, but the golem taking hold of him, carries him slowly to the side of the tower, and throws him off. He leans over to see where the mans body lies on the ground below. Miriam races up the spiral steps in the centre of the tower, the boy racing after her. They reach the top and look, wide-eyed as they realize what has happened. Miriam stands yelling. S
he faints and the golem carries her down the steps to the room below. He lays her out on the table and looks at her in wonder. She comes to as he bends down to kiss her. At that point, the boy runs up and lunges for the golems star shaped amulet. But the golem protects it, and fights the boy off. The girl screams. The boy rushes at the golem but it takes a burning branch from the fire and fends off the boy. He swings it around, setting fire to the room. From outside - smoke streams from the windows. Inside, the golem sets fire to everything. In a dark room lit with candles, the magician stands, two others beside him. A large crowd of robed men stand in front, they all bow down together in prayor. Close up of the magicians, lit from below. The gathered men part as the boy rushes up. He jumps on stage, saying to the magician "Your house is in flames - the golem is raging!" Suddenly there is panic in the hall. The robed men run for their lives through the cobbled streets of the village. The magicians house - smoke pours out of the windows. In the streets, the golem wanders, dragging Miriam along on the ground behind him by her plaits. The boy leads the magician and followers through the streets. They step over bodies strewn across the road. A man cries out "The demon has carried Miriam away - destroying everything in his path!" The men fall to their knees at the feet of the magician, clasping their hands saying "Rabbi, save us, or we shall all perish!" The magician strides forwards, he turns and raises his arms and the followers drop to the ground. The golem drags Miriam through a deserted street. The magicians home in flames, burning thatch falls from the roof. The magician stands in the midst of the flames, his arms flailing. The fire has spread to other houses, the village smokes. In the streets, the crowds kneel in prayor, smoke rises above them. On a flat piece of land overlooking the town, the magician spins in a frenzy. His house collapses to the ground. The golem stops, setting Miriam down on a rock. He looks down at her, then struts off. The magician walks down a set of steps. Miriam comes to, looking around her. The magician, walking down the steps, sees Miriam layed out below him and rushes down. He picks her up in his arms. In the streets, the villagers bow in prayor. Suddenly, one man rushes forwards and they all get to their feet. He says "Let us show our gratitude to the great Rabbi Leow"
Smiling they all rush towards his house. The Rabbi sits, Miriam beside him. The boy sidles up, looking nervous and says "Rabbi Leow, the people are here to thank you for preserving their safety." The Rabbi walks off, leaving Miriam and the boy together. He sits down beside her and holds her hand. He says "The Rabbis house is in ruins and every trace of the stranger is lost. No other man knows or suspects. I shall be silent forever, will you forgive me?" Miriam puts her head on his shoulder and closes her eyes. The golem arrives at the tall city gates. He peers though a hole in it to see little girls playing, dancing hand in hand. He pushes at the door which eventually swings open. Outside, the girls, with flowers in their hair, stand watching, then turn to run away. But one little blonde girl stands watching, crying out. The golem, enteruing into the park land outside the gate, smiles. He wanders up to where the blonde girl sits and she gets up to offer him an apple. He lifts her up. She holds out the apple and picks at his front. She plucks the star amulet off his chest and he freezes. He drops her and then himself falls to the ground. The little girl looks over at him then runs off. The crowd of villagers stand around the Rabbi, raising their hands. Concerned, he cries out "But where is the golem?" They all look at one another. In the field, the little girl fetches back her friends. They all sit on the golem, playing with him. They throw the star from one to the other. A man rushes to the magician, saying "The gate has been forced! The golem must be there!" They all race forwards. The girls scatter when the villagers arrive. The men gather in a semi-circle around the golem layed out on the ground. The Rabbi raises his hands to the heavens and says "Give thanks to Jehovah, for today he has thrice shown his love for his people." Everyone bends down to pray. The Rabbi stands up and a group of men lift the golem, carrying him aloft. The crowd follow behind. They march back through the city gates. A star symbol appears over the walls of the city.
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