The Golem (Film Review)

Every culture has its own mythological beasts. The Greeks had the Minotaur and Medusa. The Romans had the basilisk. The Chinese had dragons. One particular creature of the human imagination that has often been overlooked in mythology discussions is that of the golem, a creature made of stone or earth summoned to defeat evil…and maybe even go on an unintended murderous rampage. This product of Jewish culture has been traced as far back as the early years of Judaism with more prominent tales of the earthy monster taking place in the 16th and 17th centuries. It sounds like something ripe for the pickings of a movie. Screenwriter Ariel Cohen thought so too.

Courtesy of Epic Pictures, The Golem, starring Hani Furstenberg and Ishai Golan, takes place during a plague-ridden period of 1673 in Lithuania. A Jewish village stands alone, moderately prosperous for their own needs and free from the spreading disease’s deadly grasp. The small settlement minds its own business, but even a state of neutrality can often be shattered by elements of fear and hate in others. When the rampaging sickness strikes a nearby Christian population, the conflict begins to take shape.

So where does the stone giant come into all of this? Actually, who said the creature needed to be stone or a giant? I don’t want to give too much away here, but with Hanna’s (Furstenberg) solemn loss from years prior, her initial intent to bring the potentially violent golem into this world is more than those around her realize. What usually happens when you tell a determined person not to do something? They do it anyway.

When the golem enters the scene, it was done so in a way I found unique, and thus, unexpected. At the same rate, the fact that it was not what I had in mind in the traditional sense of the beast left me hoping for more of the traditional take that the movie opens with. Still, kudos to the creative minds behind The Golem for taking the path less traveled.

The Golem is classified as horror, though I have to disagree and file it under a dramatic-fantasy range. Through its approximate hour and a half runtime, I found there to be no scare elements or moments of gasping surprise and shock. That doesn’t mean it was a bad film, it just means it didn’t feel like a work worthy or the horror genre. The film’s dramatic purpose felt far more prominent.  Violence ends up being abundant, but again, violence by itself does not classify a film as horror any more than a few laughs would classify a film as a comedy.

My biggest gripe with The Golem is the film’s pacing. There exists a wise adage that “silence speaks volumes.” In cinema, such moments can carry great weight in the absence of dialogue. However, when such moments are numerous throughout the film, pacing tends to be drawn out while impatience kicks in. This is a prominent aspect of The Golem that ends up holding the movie back. By the time we get to the finale, things did not feel like they transitioned well, causing more of a hurried feel to wrap things up.

In the end, the movie has its merits as well as its drawbacks. As a viewer, I did feel transported back to the 17th century with the village, its structures and the wardrobe of its inhabitants accurately portraying the time period. The acting was proficient as were the special effects. The flow of the film, however, was just a bit too restricted at times, which ultimately left me wanting more out of the picture.          





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