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The Wandering Jew (1904)

Le juif errant (original title)
| Short, Drama
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Remade as The Wandering Jew (1933) See more »

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A Tableaux Vivant Ilustrating an Allegorical Subject
18 June 2011 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

It is interesting that the Catholic -- but pro-Dreyfus -- Méliès would make this allegorical film about a symbolic Jew, played by Méliès himself, wandering throughout the ages, plagued for eternity by his complicity in the death of Christ. On the surface, the film isn't anti-Semitic so much as it is illustrative of a tenet in the Catholic faith going back to the Medieval period, still very much in force at the end of the 19th century. This dogma did led to widespread persecution of Jews in Europe. The Roman Church has officially abandoned this policy in the 21st century, but in 1904, Méliès' Jew appears doomed to wander forever through his personal hell, with the spirit world beyond as resigned to keeping him on his feet as society itself, though in this case society is absent. Méliès deals with a social phenomenon as a sacred one, creating a cognitive dissonance in modern viewers. Nevertheless, the lightning storm in the ruin is impressively achieved through matting and some rapid editing on the matte, a rare effect in a Méliès title.


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