Review: The Paz Brothers Use Historical Mythology With Powerful Relevance in THE GOLEM
Doron and Yoaz Paz made a name for themselves with the small indie hit Jeruzalem in 2015, and on top of creating a well crafted horror film, the Paz’s also showed that they were dedicated to bringing Jewish heritage and beliefs to the screen. Dread’s first in house film The Golem dives even deeper into this mythology.
For as ancient as the legend of the golem is, it’s a creature that has rarely been touched on in popular culture. Although featured in one of the very first horror films ever made, Wegener’s The Golem from 1920, the folkloric creature has only intermittently returned to the screen. A golem was featured in a recent season of Supernatural, as well as an older season of The X-Files, and popped up in a few comics and D&D manuals but in the Paz’s The Golem, the brothers craft perhaps the most accurate representation to the true Jewish mythos.
Hanna (played by Hani Furstenberg) is married to the son of a rabbi in a small Jewish community. Their son has passed away and Hanna is now barren, secretly looking to the secret texts of Kabbalah for answers. When her village comes under the attack from nearby townsfolk, who claim that Hanna and her people are bringing the plague upon them via witchcraft, Hanna looks to the divine texts for help and sets about summoning a golem.
From the get go, it’s impressive how accurate and authentic everything is, from the look and feel of the garb and houses to the attention to detail in the myth itself. Although the film is steeped in historical fiction, you’re never pulled out of a distinctly all-to-real narrative. Coupled with the truly stunning cinematography of Rotem Yoren, which is doubly impressive considering the independent release of the film, applause must be given to the crew for stretching a budget and if nothing else, creating a beautiful film.
Luckily for us, it’s not all just sheen. The story of Hanna is a heartbreaking one, and you’ll see it coming a mile away, which makes the work of the Paz’s even more refreshing. While the audience will take the easy leap of connecting the idea of losing a son and then crafting a childlike golem, the direction of Paz on the Ariel Cohen script are still able to take something that may seem too obvious into something that still resonates on a deeper level.
A large part of this is that the narrative isn’t solely focused on the idea of grief but is also deeply rooted in a feminist motive. Hanna is a powerful character. While she is still very much all too human, venturing into dangerous territory by summoning forth the eventually destructive golem, she is also a bold and powerful woman. In spite of a her husband and village constantly looking to mute her and play down her feelings, Hanna refuses to ever allow herself to become muted. In fact, Hanna speaks louder than words, using actions to defend herself and her village.
Furstenberg is outstanding, carefully weaving her way in and out of delicate emotions, ranging from grief to violent resilience. She is able to easily tip toe between vulnerable to powerful. While the rest of the cast all perform well, especially the villainous Alex Tritenko as Vladimir, Furstenberg shines about her cast mates. The emotional gravitas she carries when she first meets the golem or shares her deceased sons toys with him is unmatched and it’s because of this that she is able to carry the bulk of the film on her back.
The Golem is an interesting movie. It’s not an out-an-out horror film but the Paz’s make sure to crank the gore levels up to eleven when necessary (and it’s always earned), it carries a lot more trauma along with than a few scenes of heads exploding. The golem itself isn’t a frightening creature but the idea of it is as is the knowledge that eventually it will turn on it’s creator and switch sides from benevolent aid to malevolent monster and the only question is “when?” The Golem is a gorgeous movie that pays respect to it’s roots while also updating the legend, quite terrifyingly, to be relevant with the times. It’s a feminist historical set piece that is sure to catch your eye, a home run of a debut film from Dread.