Paul Wegener


(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )

7.0 Der Student von Prag (1913)
7.2 Der Golem (1920)
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If English is your first language and you could translate my old Italian text, please contact me.

I due film che aprirono le porte al cinema espressionista furono concepiti e interpretati da Paul Wegener, attore diligente ma mente affascinata dal mistero, dal muto, dalla leggenda. In entrambi i film che segnarono un momento determinante nell'evoluzione dal film fantastico al film espressionista Wegener si fece condurre da due registi scelti su misura, ma fu protagonista assoluto, autore ed attore.

Der Student von Prag (1913), diretto da Stellan Rye, metteva insieme un numero di luoghi comuni dell'epoca: Praga città dell'occulto in contrapposizione a Berlino città del divertimento; il misticismo ebreo; l'anima venduta al demonio (Faust); la zingara chiromante.

Wegener interpretava uno studente che impegna il suo riflesso nello specchio (il suo doppelgänger) al demonio per conquistare la donna che ama invece il mago-demonio crea un sosia che conduce il giovane alla rovina e quando questi, disperato, spara al proprio doppio la pallottola trapassa il suo cuore. Il regista era un danese, Stellan Rye, educato alla scuola naturalista, mentre assistente era un ceco, Henrik Galeen.

Il film era stato concepito solamente per ispirare orrore, ma invece presentò per la prima volta il motivo dello sdoppiamento della personalità e conferì un carattere simbolico a figure come quella dello studente. Il tema era mutuato dalla letteratura romantica (Hoffman) decadente (Wilde) ed espressionista. Ma nonostante le limitazioni dichiarate ebbe una notevole influenza.

Der Golem (1914 e poi 1920), based on Gustav Meyrink's 1915 novel, fu realizzato da Wegener con Galeen, alle prime armi sia come sceneggiatore sia come regista, e Karl Freund anch'egli agli esordi come operatore.

Wegener era venuto a conoscenza della leggenda praghese secondo cui nel medioevo un astrologo ebreo avrebbe letto nelle stelle un futuro pogrom e, per difendere il ghetto, avrebbe dato vita alla statua del Golem. I tre riuscirono a trasformare lo studio in una fabbrica di visioni fantastiche, influenzando le messe in scena espressioniste. La scena più emozionante era quella in cui Wegener impersona la statua che, richiamata in vita da una formula magica, muove i primi lenti e pesanti passi (precursore di tutta una dinastia di mostri); la più imponente quella del Golem che, respinto dalla giovane di cui è innamorato, si rivolta contro il suo padrone e semina morte e distruzione.

Wegener, scontento della versione del 1914, rifece il film nel 1920 con Carl Boese.

Rabbi Loew, who owns a telescope on the roof of his house, reads in the star that a terrible misfortune is about to befall on the Jewish community. He descends into his house and informs a young man and a young woman of the prophecy. Escorted by the young man, he goes to inform the chief Rabbi and asks him to assemble the community so they can all pray God for mercy. Meanwhile, the emperor signs a decree against the Jews, suspected of practicing black magic, with the order to evacuate the ghetto, and charges the knight Florian with the mission to deliver the edict to the Jewish ghetto. Rabbi Loew is studying in a thick book the magic invovation that will bring the Golem to life and save the Jews. Florian enters the ghetto and delivers the edict to the chief rabbi. The handsome Florian flirts with Loew's pretty daughter, who reciprocates. Loew only tells of his secret plan to revive the Golem to his young assistant, who helps him carry the statue out of the basement where it was hidden for centuries. Florian returns and delivers an invitation from the emperor to entertain the court with his magic acts. Florian and Loew's pretty daughter Miriam are fondly in love, but Loew has other plans for her. Loew and his assistant follow the instructions from the book of magic and summon a spirit who, in the middle of terrifying lightning that knocks out the assistant, reveals the magic word to revive the dead. Loew writes it on a piece of paper that then he inserts in an amulet, which in turn he pins to the chest of the Golem. The Golem starts to move, silent and expressionless, like a robot. Loew can stop it anytime by removing the amulet. Loew treats the Golem, that understands his orders, as his personal servant. The neighbors stare incredulous and intimidated as the golem fetches water from the well and even goes shopping. Loew decides to take the Golem with him to the emperor's palace. Meanwhile, Florian bribes the gatekeeper of the ghetto to sneak into the house and sleep with Miriam. Loew introduces the Golem to the emperor in front of a large crowd of nobles. A woman hands the Golem a flower and he tries to caress her but she runs away scared. The Golem smells the flower and lowers his sad eyes. Loew then entertains the emperor with another act of magic: the wall becomes something like the screen of a movie theater and the audience watches a sort of movie about the history of the Jewish people. When the audience makes fun of the Wandering Jew who appeared on the screen, the Wandering Jew marches towards the audience and seems to come out of the screen. The palace collapses and is about to crush the court. Loew orders the Golem to save them and he supports the ceiling thanks to his superhuman strength. Unbeknownst to Loew, Florian is in bed with Miriam. The following morning Loew and the Golem return to the ghetto and announce that the emperor has rescinded his edict and the Jews don't need to abandon the ghetto. The Golem, however, goes crazy and Loew has to pull out the amulet. Loew reads in the big book of magic that the Golem, under the current astral configuration, could become a tool of evil, and therefore commands it to return to its inanimate form. He then joins the celebrations in the streets. But his assistant, who is in love with Miriam, overhears Florian in Miriam's bedroom and is caught by the desire to get rid of Floria. He reawakes the Golem and orders who breaks down the door of Miriam's bedroom, survives Florian's attempt to stab him, chases Florian to the top of a tower and throws him in the street. Miriam faints. The Golem lays her on a table and looks at her with lascivious eyes. The assistant attacks him and is almost killed, but manages to escape while the Golem sets fire to the building. The whole community rushes to Loew's burning house. Soon other houses are also on fire and towers collapse. Meanwhile, the Golem has taken the unconscious Miriam with him. Loew utters the magic words that remove the evil spirit from the Golem, and the Golem stops his destruction and returns Miriam to him. The young assistant begs Miriam to forgive him. The Golem walks alone towards the gate of the ghetto and is attracted by the sight of little girls playing outside. He opens the gate and all the girls flee except a little one. The Golem smiles and picks her up, but she accidentally removes the amulet and the Golem collapses dead. The little girl runs to tell the other girls that the Golem lies dead. Then the whole town arrives. Loew thanks his God for saving the ghetto, and they all carry the dead Golem back inside.

Entrambi i film furono più emanazioni della personalità del loro ideatore che precoci manifestazioni del cinema espressionista; ma offrirono a questo parecchi degli spunti di cui si sarebbe servito.

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