As a longtime staple of classic horror and Jewish film culture, The Golem is being brought back to life by Reboot, an arts and culture nonprofit that reimagines and recreates Jewish traditions.
For 100 years, German silent horror film The Golem: How He Came Into the World has captivated audiences.
The 1920 release, directed by Paul Wegener, takes viewers on a journey through 16th-century Prague, where a rabbi creates a giant clay creature brought to life by sorcery. The Golem’s role: to save Prague’s Jewish community from persecution, a theme relevant for millennia.
As a longtime staple of classic horror and Jewish film culture, The Golem is being brought back to life by Reboot, an arts and culture nonprofit that reimagines and recreates Jewish traditions. Its latest endeavor sees the New York-based organization splitting The Golem into an episodic series complete with new film scores, commentary as it takes on its legacy.
The new film scores, which will include the music of Detroit-based artist Gretchen Davidson, combine the work of numerous renowned musicians and members of bands such as the Flaming Lips and Los Lobos, among others.
“The Golem is an amazing confluence around an important moment in cinematic horror films as well as a quintessential Jewish story,” explains David Katznelson, Reboot CEO, “that has woven its way into the fabric of this bigger story around monsters that we tell and retell through film.”
Often hailed as the “Jewish Frankenstein,” The Golem has long been considered as an inspiration for the 1931 Boris Karloff Frankenstein film. It’s also helped create one of the most well-known Jewish fables about the occult that continues to be passed down to generations today.
To mark the film’s 100th anniversary of its theatrical release (which played in theaters in 1921, a year after its creation), the new Golem reboot will be available for streaming Oct. 28 on Reboot’s website, just in time for Halloween weekend. It’s what Katznelson calls “a real Jewish story.”
“There are themes about the occult, ghosts, Jewish history and how Hollywood sees the Jews,” Katznelson says of the classic film, which will be split into eight separate episodes. “We see this idea of creation in the past as our Torah talks about it, but we also see it in the modern world.”
Each of the eight episodes will take a deep dive into The Golem previously unseen in the original film. Packed with expert commentary, new music and history about the film’s 100 years of influence, the episodes will take on a documentary-like feel while playing the original cuts.
“We were very mindful of gathering different voices that could add commentary to the themes that are present in The Golem,” Katznelson says. Dr. Ken Goldberg, for example, will be speaking in the reboot. The professor of robotics at UC Berkeley has written extensively about The Golem, connecting it to today’s use of robotics and reliance on artificial intelligence.
Other commentators will include film historians, scholars and composers. “The people who we’ve asked to comment will give their own take on what we’re hoping will become a great experience in the film,” Katznelson adds.
The eight episodes will be hosted by mythologist, writer and podcaster John K. Butcher and history communicator and podcaster Torri Yates-Orr. Each with its own dedicated theme, the episodes will cover topics like music and mysticism, magic, how The Golem connects to the future, and different ways it has been portrayed in film, myth and pop culture over the decades.
“You’re suddenly looking at it as a section-by-section film,” Katznelson explains of the decision to cut the film into an episodic series. “Cutting the film allowed me to really do a deep dive into it.”
The addition of music to the previously silent film helps viewers reimagine the story of The Golem even more. While some people haven’t seen the original film, Katznelson hopes the reboot will encourage audiences to explore its enduring history and legacy on their own.
“You get this visceral feeling when you’re listening to this modern music attached to these old images,” Katznelson says. “It brings those images to life in a whole new way.”
Yet 100 years later, topics The Golem touches upon — antisemitism, creation myths and the dark side of Hollywood — continue to persist today. “The idea of how relevant it still is and how it comes up in life on such a regular basis,” Katznelson says of the film, “it’s pretty incredible.”
Stream The Golem at https://rebooting.com starting Oct 28.