The Golem: How He Came into the World – Germany, 1920

Der Golem wie er in die Welt kam 1920

The Golem: How He Came into the World – original title: Der Golem, wie er in die Welt kam – is a 1920 German silent horror feature film co-directed by Paul Wegener with Carl Boese from a screenplay written by Wegener and Henrik Galeen, and starring Wegener as the golem. The script was adapted from the 1915 novel The Golem by Gustav Meyrink. 

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The film was the third of three films that Wegener made featuring the golem, the other two being The Golem (1915) and the short comedy The Golem and the Dancing Girl (1917), in which he dons the monster make-up in order to frighten a young lady he is infatuated with.

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Architect Hans Poelzig designed the expressionist sets. The cinematography by Karl Freund, in collaboration with Poelzig and Wegener, is cited as one of the most outstanding examples of German Expressionism.

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Set in Jewish ghetto of medieval Prague, the film begins with Rabbi Loew, the head of the city’s Jewish community, reading the stars. Loew predicts disaster for his people. The next day the Holy Roman Emperor signs a royal decree declaring that the Jews must leave the city before the new moon.

Loew begins to create a huge monster out of clay, the Golem, which he will bring to life to defend his people. In an elaborate magical procedure, Loew summons the spirit Astaroth and compel him, as per the ancient texts, to say the magic word to bring life. The Golem awakes…

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Reviews:

‘Wegener’s acting performance in The Golem is subtle as he plays a force of nature without conscience or emotion. The Golem is only capable of brute force; therefore violence is inevitable. He quickly learns that he can remain alive if he refuses to let anyone take off the amulet and so he pushes away anyone who tries to remove it.’ Michael Koenig, Film Monthly

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‘A relic certainly, but a fascinating one, Der Golem is perhaps the screen’s first great monster movie … Wegener’s golem is an impressively solid figure, the Frankenstein monster with a slightly comical girly clay-wig. The wonderfully grotesque Prague sets and the alchemical atmosphere remain potent.’ Kim Newman

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