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This was a film that I heard about from a podcast and it intrigued me. I was excited to see that it was being shown at my local theater. The official synopsis is during an outbreak of a deadly plague, a mystical woman must save her tight-knit Jewish community from foreign invaders, but the entity she conjures to protect them is a far greater evil.
We kick this off inside of a synagogue located in Prague. It is destroyed. There are dead bodies and blood everywhere. A rabbi enters and we see a large figure in the shadows. He goes to it to calm it down and a little girl enters. She is disheveled and she picks up a piece of glass. This agitates the creature.
The film then shifts to Lithuania in the latter 1600s. There's a Jewish community that we are in. We follow Hanna (Hani Furstenberg). She goes to a local healer, Perla (Brynie Furstenberg), who tells her that her 7 years of bad luck are over. She is given a vial of something.
Hanna is married to Benjamin (Ishai Golan). He is the son of the local rabbi and goes to prayer and learns about the Torah. Something interesting that the film also reveals is that women at this time are not allowed to learn the holy teachings. Benjamin breaks this rule by allowing his wife to hide underneath the floor and brings books home for her. She studies throughout the night.
There is tragedy between though. They had a son who passed away and Benjamin really wants another child. By law he could leave Hanna, since she is considered barren now, but he sticks with her. He does seem to be fine with her thirst for knowledge, but he also doesn't like that she is avoiding the real world with it.
Her sister is getting married soon and we see the two of them go swimming. They see someone on the other bank. They end up seeing that there is an outbreak of plague in a nearby village. The man in charge is Vladimir (Alex Tritenko) and his group is disposing of the bodies.
The wedding that we heard about is interrupted when Vladimir and his men come. They are under the belief that this Jewish community has put a curse on them, since they aren't hit by this plague. They kill one of the members and make an ultimatum, heal his daughter of her sickness or they burn the village down. Perla agrees to help while the men all convene. They are interrupted by Hanna, to their horror. She wants to summon a Golem, which is the creature we see in the beginning. It is supposed to defend those of the Jewish faith. The rabbi points out that they are unable to be controlled though.
Against what they say, Hanna summons it anyways and it appears in the form of the boy. It does what it is supposed to, but it also starts to kills others and seems to be connected to Hanna in a deeper way as well.
Now when I was watching this, things that the podcaster said came to me. I tried to form my own opinion and avoid knowing anything that I can when coming in. I do think that the same issues they had I did as well. To start off with the positives, this film really shows the plight of the Jewish people. They have been persecuted many times throughout history and we get that here. This village is very peaceful, but they are held captive by the Lithuanians. It is only Hanna at first that wants to stand up them. Others do come around though later.
I also like this film incorporating their folklore. Now I've heard of the Golem growing up, but I didn't realize where it came from. I knew it was a rock creature from video games I played in the past. It wasn't until I learned more about the history of the horror genre that it was a Jewish creature that would defend them when they called upon it. I don't know enough about it to know if it acts like it does in this film. I did really get a Pumpkinhead vibe though.
The biggest issue I really had with the film though was that the Golem is a little boy. I really wanted to see more of the creature in the beginning of the film. I do get the reason that they go with a boy though. It actually kind of made me tear up as it really has to do facing the traumatic event that Hanna and Benjamin expereinced. There is a divide between them and resentment. Hanna buries herself in books and what he perceives to avoid feeling grief. I do see where he is coming from and tend to agree with him. By having this creature be a boy, she can use it for what is needed, but it also allows her another chance.
Now something I was impressed by was the fact that this film runs about 95 minutes, but it really doesn't feel like it. We get introduced to some of the mythology and then we meet the characters. It doesn't take long to get to the crisis that these people are trying to deal with. The tension builds from it and there are moments that made me feel anxious, because of the repercussions of them. There are some things that happen later that I feel kind of make it seem like the decisions are pointless though. I do feel that the film ends very well.
Acting is something that I also thought was pretty strong. Hani Furstenberg I thought did a great job as the lead. I love that her character has a thirst for knowledge that at the time and her faith is forbidden. I also feel for her in that I can tell she is hurting, but she is repressing it. Golan is also solid. He loves his wife, but he is pushed the edge with some things she does. I think he has some good growth, especially in the faith that forces you to follow what your leader says. Brynie Furstenberg was solid in her role as well Tritenko. I love his look with the plague masks. He is the villain, but he is doing it to protect his daughter. They give him a human element, which makes it hard to completely hate him. I think this is a great style choice. The boy who plays the Golem I also thought did very well as did the rest of the cast for what was needed.
Effects for the film are quite interesting. They seem to actually be mostly done with CGI, but I thought they looked good for the most part. There are some exploding heads and hearts being ripped out, which I wasn't expecting to be honest. Mostly of this does seem to be done with computers, but I didn't really have issues. The practical effects that were used seemed to be fine and I thought the look of both Golems were good. I would have liked to see more explored into what the power the creature has though. The film is also shot very well in my opinion.
The score of the film was also fitting for what they needed. The only thing that I really wanted to bring up is that Benjamin plays the violin. It really gives a haunting feel to the film when he is playing and it also incorporates into something with the ending as well.
Now with that said, this film was quite interesting. I'm a sucker for mythology and thought it was great to learn more about this creature that is considered to be a defender of the Jewish people. I do wish this film would have delved a bit more into that mythos than what we got though. I also wish that the creature we saw in the beginning was used later, but I understand why we don't. I like the idea of the village being taken over and fighting back. The acting was good. Effects were more CGI than I normally like, but it did look good. The practical effects were fine and the score was fitting. I did really like the violin that was used as it is haunting. I really thought this was an interesting film and one that I would like to revisit again.
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