The Dybbuk (1937)

Article #836 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-29-2003
Posting Date: 11-26-2003
Directed by Michael Waszynsky
Featuring A. Morewsky, R. Samberg, M. Libman

A man betrays a pact that he made that his daughter will marry the son of a close friend, and as a result, his daughter becomes possessed by the spirit of his friend’s dead son.

Title check: A dybbuk is the soul of a dead man that takes possession of the body of another, and that is exactly what this movie is about.

I found this one very interesting. It is a rare example of Yiddish cinema, and the story is steeped in Jewish rites, traditions and culture. There are numerous fantastic elements; the aforementioned possession, a wandering spirit known as the Messenger comes on the scene at several points, and Satanism is part of the mix as well. It’s not an easy movie to watch; it’s a solid two hours long, and the style is somewhat akin to that of IVAN THE TERRIBLE PART ONE, with surreal touches reminiscent of VAMPYR, though the story itself is simple and straightforward. I’m almost tempted to call it a musical because of the ways that music and dance all play essential roles in the way the story is presented. I can easily see some people being very bored by this one, but I found the milieu of the events to be so rife with mystery and evocative ritual that I really felt transported to another world, and it’s a movie that I would gladly watch again. It’s simply one of those movies that was a unique enough viewing experience for me that I’m willing to overlook its flaws.

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