special-event-%e2%80%93-silent-classic-the-golem-der-golem-wie-er-in-die-welt-kam-mar-18thThe Golem was a clay statue of legend whose role was to protect the Jews of the Prague ghetto from an imminent pogrom. He fulfils his task but then turns on his rabbinical master. All is put right when a child removes the emblematic shem from his chest. The Cabinet of Dr Caligari is widely known as the definitive expressionist film, but some argue that the acting, the set design and the lighting of The Golem combine to make this the superior example. (Cert PG)
Dirs: Paul Wegener and Carl Boese 84 mins Germany 1920

Andrew Youdell returns to accompany on piano our annual silent film. The screening will begin at 7.30 p.m. and take place at St Nicolas Church, Market Place, Abingdon.

Programme Notes

Thursday, 18 March 2010



Germany 1920 85 minutes Cert PG

Silent film with piano accompaniment by Andrew Youdell.
Venue: St Nicolas’s Church, Market Place, Abingdon. 7.30 p.m.

Weimar Cinema, frequently labelled Expressionist cinema, was the first great phase in German film, lasting from 1918 to 1933. It encompassed such masterly film-makers as Murnau (Nosferatu, 1922), Robert Wiene (Das Kabinett des Dr Caligari, 1919), Fritz Lang (Metropolis, 1926) and G.W. Pabst (Diary of a Lost Girl, 1929). Less well-known than these is Paul Wegener (1874-1948). Wegener co-directed, scripted and starred in the third Golem film in 1920 (the two previous Golem films have been lost; one of them was also directed by Wegener). The film is based very, very loosely on the best-selling novel by Gustav Meyrinck (1916), an atmospheric evocation of a monster that haunts the streets of Prague. The backdrop to the film is a stylised medieval city, re-created in the studio by Hans Poelzig, Gothic to mirror the Gothick plot. The interiors, however, are Romanesque rather than Gothic, cave-like and claustrophobic. Look out for the characteristically Expressionist chiaroscuro and the staircase. The female lead is played by Wegener’s wife, Lyda Salmonova.

Is the film anti-Semitic? Not overtly so, but there does seem to be, as in Meyrinck’s novel, an anti-Semitic current in the portrayal of Prague and its ghetto. Wegener went on to become one of the Third Reich’s key directors and in 1937 was made state actor by the Hitler administration. He directed Kolberg, the last great colour film of the Nazi era; he died in a Russian prison camp.

The Golem – Paul Wegener
Rabbi Loew – Albert Steinrück
Famulus – Ernst Deutsch
Miriam – Lyda Salmonova
Florian – Lothar Müthel
Child – Loni Nest

Directors – Paul Wegener, Carl Boese
Screenplay – Paul Wegener, Henrik Galeen
Cinematography – Karl Freund
Set design – Hans Poelzig
Producer – Paul Davidson
Studio – Ufa (Universum Film AG)


Silent film with piano accompaniment by Andrew Youdell

“Piano was brilliant!”

“A+ for the pianist!”

“Congratulations to the pianist – he made the evening!”

“Andrew Youdell excellent! Thank you”

“I really enjoyed the piano accompaniment.”

“Andrew’s music provided a lot of atmosphere for this exceptional piece of Expressionism. A real cinematic treat, worth viewing just for the entertaining expressions [on the faces] of the characters.”

“Tremendous! Very moving and amazing – I had a strong feeling of what it must have been like to see this film at the time. Great music too!”

“I loved it. Very difficult to compare with a normal film but captivating from the start.”

“An amazingly different style of cinema”

“Such a different genre!”

“The Goth in me loved this film – the venue and the accompaniment made it a real treat.”

“I rather liked the Golem – a bit like King Kong, I felt sorry for him. Wonderful street scenes.”

“Lots of energy and imagination. I always thought there was some good in that Golem!”

“I felt sorry for the Golem – he got a hard deal, as did the knight!”

“There were wonderful parallels with Lenny in The Grapes of Wrath, Frankenstein’s monster, of course and The Wrong Trousers! But very disquieting – how many Sonder Kommando in Warsaw had seen this film as children?”

“Remarkable sets – organic rather than Gothic. An interesting film.”

“Dated – but still a good story”

“Next time, read the instructions – all of them!”

“More of these, please. [However,] I don’t suppose Mr Y is that frequently available!”


A:26, B:17, C:7, D:1, E:0 to give 83%