27 August 2018 (released)
02 September 2018
Steeped in ancient magic and lore The Golem is a take on the Jewish legend of a being conjured up to defend them in times of need. There is a price in that the Golem is a monster of almost unstoppable power that is quite capable of harming those it defends.
Set in 17th century Lithuania an isolated village is more or less content and is free of the plague that is ravaging the rest of the area. Hanna (Hani Furstenberg) is married to Benjamin (Ishai Golan) and they are still childless much to the chagrin his rabbi father in law Horrovits (Lenny Ravich). An independent woman Hanna listens to the Rabbi’s teachings under the floor of the hut, and also studies the books that Benjamin borrows for her.
Vladimir (Alex Tritenko) the head of the neighbouring village arrives carrying his plague-ridden daughter. Blaming the community for her suffering he gives them ultimatum that he will destroy the village if they cannot cure his daughter. Perla (Brynie Furstenberg) says she will try and takes the girl in with the knowledge that there is very little hope.
Sensing a confrontation, they cannot win Hanna conjures up the Golem which from the mud takes the form of her dead son. Dead eyed and emotionless the boy/Golem has something of a link with Hanna though she has no control over it as it sets about the invaders and others much closer to home. She forms an emotional attachment to the creature, which for its part acts totally out of cold dispassionate instinct.
Doran and Yoav Paz have directed a very good looking period piece and an excellent sound design. The battle scenes and horror as the Golem launches into its enemies are efficient enough. There are also some pretty blatant references to women’s rights to learn and control over their lives. If one wants to dig deeper there’s the familiar trope of ‘man’ trying to play god.
However there’s an over-reverence for much of it that makes it heavy going and its 95 minutes felt a lot longer.
We are warned of things to come right from the start with the beautiful stark image of a woman, dressed in black with blood on her playing snow angels.
It’s a simple idea. Interview some young dancers for an upcoming American tour then invite them out to what appears to be an isolated school hall for rehearsals. The DJ pumping the music out from a stage with the a huge spangly tricolour as a backdrop. The dancers are out free-forming in a riveting long sequence with an overhead camera that has the troupe if not performing as a team demonstrating what they have to offer.
With the music still in the background the dancers enjoy a drink and a chat. What appears to be off the cuff semi improvised they talk about themselves, who they fancy in a frank sometimes gross manner. All the time sipping a sangria that has been spiked with LSD. Gradually as the drug kicks in tensions rise, accusations fly and the cracks widen, splitting apart the group. In this melee a young boy has taken some of the drink and his mother succumbing to the drug, tries to put him out of harms way, in fuse room.
The music – the artists credited during the film – continues, the troupe breaks up into groups, couples and individuals, there’s a portmanteau effect as the camera follows some on their private decline into human detritus.
Then the lights go and we are plunged into a red hued inferno, with an upside down camera that flits over the stoned and depraved dancers; mounds of flesh, engaging, raging; pulsing with life or yielding to death.
Above all else Gaspar Noé’s film is a technical masterpiece of sight and sound, with Benoit Debie’s photography integral, Climax is an exhilarating experience; bold, brash a whirl of motion and beauty, brutally intrusive at times and yet quietly lingering on the players as the talk amongst themselves. The music as times come close to unbearable as it folds in with the images and disorientates the watcher. Whether there is much else here other than exploring humanity through the effects of a very bad trip is not clear. It probably requires another viewing and that's not as easy as it sounds.