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Arts and Entertainment

The Golem Screens at REDCAT Friday and Saturday with Live Score

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The Golem | Photo: Courtesy of REDCAT

The Golem | Photo: Courtesy of REDCAT
We know that there's absolutely too much stuff to do this weekend. The classic horror film choices alone are amazing, so to make decisions even more difficult, REDCATis screening the 1920 German expressionist classic The Golem with a live score by Brian LeBarton--better known as Beck's keyboardist and musical director--with special guest Carla Azar on drums and percussion. The Golem is a 1920 silent feature based on the Jewish folk tale about a medieval Prague rabbi who brings a clay figure to life to help protect the city's Jews from oppression. But before long, the Golem becomes uncontrollable and begins to wreak his own havoc. The film, which served as a precursor to Frankenstein and other horror films films, featured director Paul Wegener as the Golem, cinematography by Karl Freund and sets by architect Hans Poelzig.

In a 1999 Film Monthly essay on The Golem, Michael Koenig writes:

The Golem is a film of great power, as hypnotic as a German Expressionist vision of life as a waking dream. The dim light and looming shadow were photographed by Karl Freund, who also shot two German Expressionist masterpieces: Fritz Lang's Metropolisand F.W. Murnau's The Last Laugh. Freund later emigrated to America and eventually became the head cameraman for I Love Lucy. Hans Poelzig's stylized sets convey the claustrophobia of ghetto life, with curved stone walls and sharply pointed roofs. The two sets of circular stairs the characters climb down to enter the rabbi's study look like the twin chambers of a human heart.

However, The Golem is not really a German Expressionist story; it is more a combination of Jewish mysticism and fairy tale. Director Wegener portrays the supernatural elements of the story without irony or psychological explanation, as if we were truly in medieval Prague, when people would have believed that an amulet and an incantation could bring a clay figure to life.

The essay also goes on to reveal that Wegener made three versions of the Golem legend: Two--
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The Golem (1915) and The Golem and the Dancer (1917)--have been lost. This 1920 film, subtitled, How He Came into the World, is the only version that remains.

The film clip below includes the scene where the rabbi brings the Golem to life. You'll see the German expressionist film elements of shadows, light and stylized sets--which can only look better when on the big screen with live music--and no embedded ads.

The Golem - Part 5 -

The Golem@ REDCAT
631 W. 2nd St., Los Angeles
Fri.-Sat. at 8:30 pm
Tickets: $20, $16 students and $10 for CalArts faculty, students and staff

For other Halloween suggestions, visit our weekly Film Digest.