Der Golem (The Golem) Review

Movie: Der Golem (The Golem)
By: Orlok666
Date: May 18, 2011

Solid movie about the clay creature

Director Paul Wegener gives us a classic version of one of the most well-known creatures in Jewish myth: The Golem.

A great misfortune

A beautiful shot of a star filled sky over some dangerous looking rocks opens the movie. Looking more closely we see rabbi Loew reading the stars and through them he learns that great misfortune will come over the Jews. Alarmed he rushes downstairs –the rocks proved to be a sort of tower- to rabbi Jehuda and they decide to gather the community and tell them of this upcoming doom.

In a decreed the Jews are accused by the Christian emperor of practicing black magic and despising the Christian ceremonies. They must leave the city and their territory before the end of the month. And while the emperor send knight Florian forth to the Jewish ghetto as messenger to deliver the decreed, the Jews themselves decided to summon the Golem in order to protect their people. Rabbi Loew takes this task upon him and secretly makes a man out of clay in a cellar-like environment.

Der Golem 1

It’s alive! Alive!

When the knight Florian arrives with the news rabbi Loew asks for an audience with the emperor and succeeds in getting permission to see the emperor. While bringing the news Florian and Loew’s daughter Miriam fall in love with eachother, much to Loew’s disapproval. Loew and his apprentice continue to summon a demon seducing it to say the magic word that will give the lifeless man of clay life. When the ritual is finished they write down the word and placing it on the Golem makes the creature come alive.

Der Golem 2

A friendly giant…

The big, clumsy brute scares the people of the ghetto but soon it’s clear that he’s the servant of the rabbi and will mean no harm. Loew brings the Golem along when having the audience with the emperor leaving the court stunned by this creature. When things seem to go terribly wrong in the palace the rabbi and the Golem help out and the emperor withdraws the decreed. In the meantime Florian secretly went to the ghetto to visit his forbidden love Miriam but finds himself stuck when he wants to leave. Returning home Loew sees no need for the Golem anymore and removes the word from the Golem’s chest turning it into a lifeless piece of clay again.

Der Golem 3

…Or not?

Finding out that Florian and Miriam are having an affair, Loew’s apprentice brings the Golem back to life. Send to Florian and Miriam, the Golem falls in love with Miriam and becomes an unstoppable monster wreaking havoc in the Jewish ghetto and the people call on rabbi Loew to make an end to the monster’s rampage…

Rock solid

Paul Wegener directed the movie in a solid way and with a dramatic feel. He also plays the Golem, not giving him too much expressions, mostly a sort of a wondering face and one filled with anger but his face does fit in quite well as a more rough character. The art direction of ‘Der Golem’ looks really nice, consisting of rough, organic forms. I even mistook the towers for rocks in the opening shot. A lot of structures in the Jewish ghetto meander and are curved making it sober but lively place to live.

It’s a bit weird though that the Golem was created by means of black magic while at first the Jews felt astonished by the emperor’s decreed where the Jews were accused of using this kind of magic. However, the scene where Loew summons the demon Astaroth has a great atmosphere with all the smoke and where suddenly the demon’s face appears. The way how the demon speaks the magic word that should bring the Golem alive is a small but great visual accomplishment. In this part of the movie Wegener uses a bit more advanced lightning, effects and an imaginative use of techniques.

At first glance the story has a bit of resemblance with the famous Frankenstein story. Both concern a creature that is brought to life but becomes uncontrollable in the end. The Golem too shows a desire to live and to be human but not in a compelling way as ‘Frankenstein’ did 16 years later. This movie is a bit affected by the hands of time and by far not as groundbreaking as ‘Das Kabinett des Doktor Caligari’ or ‘Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens’. But if you’re a bit into classic horror stories told in a decent way this might be a nice one for you.

Note: This version that has been reviewed was the 60 minute long version from 1915. There also exists a 85 minute long version dating from the 1920's



Der Golem (The Golem)


Der Golem (The Golem)


Paul Wegener






Paul Wegener, Henrik Galeen, Lyda Salmonova