Monday, October 4, 2021

I must wrest the life-giving word from the dreaded spirit Astaroth

 It’s October. There’s no denying it. And I have a movie recommendation for you, dear reader. It’s a 1920 silent film called Der Golem wie er in die Welt kam (The Golem: How He Came Into the World). 

Will you like it?


I'm pretty sure that I saw Edward Scissorhand’s when it came out in 1990—if not then I saw it pretty shortly after, and I confess that it left me kind of lukewarm. But the thing about it that I loved, the thing that burned itself into my visual upbringing, was the scene where Peg (the mother) is wandering through the inventor’s mansion on the hill, up the steps and into the ruined rafters where she finds Edward crouching in a shadowy corner.* That scene is pitch perfect and gorgeous and I will love it forever. 

The set of the inventor’s mansion, with it’s otherworldly curves and angles, is what really sells it. It’s almost entirely black and white, textured like paper mâché, and perfectly balanced between whimsy and menace. It’s dark fairytale perfection from a world where every row of gingerbread rooftops is also a set of pointed teeth.

And I think that set design and that scene owe almost everything to German expressionism and, I bet, Der Golem in particular. 

So if you liked that scene in Edward Scissorhands, then I bet you'll like Der Golem

The caveat, of course, is that it’s a silent film from 1920, so the editing is slower than we're used to and while the sets and costumes are perfect, the Golem himself looks more goofy than frightening. But, if you’re in the right mood, I think it’s a great (and spooky!) piece of art and history. 

OH! And the biggest shout out to my pal Zack Giallongo who introduced me to Der Golem. 

*the other thing that I love from Edward Scissorhands is, of course, Danny Elfman’s score, which plays on a loop in my heart from October through December.