This marvellous film represents a triple 'first'. It is not only the first 'talkie' of director Julien Duvivier but also that of actor Harry Baur, as well as being the first of six films they made together in the 1930's. Of these 'Behold the Man' is the weakest but Baur's appearance as Herod is mesmerising.
Even by Duvivier's standards this tale of a Jewish businessman's downfall, adapted from the novel of the ill-fated Irene Nemirovsky, is a bleak and deeply cynical piece in which most of the characters are utterly devoid of the finer qualities. They are by turns venal, rapacious and thoroughly ignoble. Golder is regarded by his wife and daughter as a moneymaking machine and they are understandably indignant when his near-fatal heart attack causes the flow of funds to dry up. He is, ironically enough, shown kindness in his dying moments by a young Jewish immigrant going to Paris in search of wealth who probably reflects Golder as he once was and as he would most likely become.
The technical virtuosity is astounding for a film made ninety years ago and the credits include names that are awe-inspiring. Georges Perinal and Armand Thirard as cinematographers with art direction by Lazare Meerson!
Bauer was of course a genius on a par with Charles Laughton and Heinrich George and his David Golder is another in his gallery of unforgettable characterisations. Paula Andrial and Jackie Monnier are perfectly cast as his monstrous wife and daughter.
Needless to say this film has been labelled by some as 'anti-Semitic'. This accusation is frankly ridiculous and not even worthy of consideration.
This powerful piece serves to remind us that the only thing more soul-destroying than the love of money is the lack of it!