Doron & Yoav Paz, The Paz Brothers, are Israeli filmmakers known for their horror flicks. Their newest film, ‘The Golem’ not only explores Jewish folklore, but also deals with grief, healing, creation and still remains completely unnerving and terrifying. The decision to make the Golem a child was genius on the part of the Paz Brothers. The film is shot beautifully. The imagery was rich, the sets haunting and the lighting phenomenally eerie and atmospheric. The Paz Brothers created that great balance of beauty and dread within a horror film with ‘The Golem’. I recently chatted with co-director, Doron Paz about the film.
Jennifer Ortega: What made you want to do a movie specifically on the Golem?
Doron Paz: Me and my brother we always like to deal with the dark side of stuff, edgy stuff. We were starting to look for our next feature film, the next idea and we started researching the Golem. We realized that nobody ever did a Golem film in the last hundred years and Golem stories were something we grew up on. It’s like the Jewish Frankenstein. You would rarely see something about a Golem on TV shows. ‘The Simpsons’ had a Golem story, but there’s not a recent proper film. We said ok this is go to be our next project. And that’s why we did it.
JO: Like you said there hasn’t been a film and only very seldom does a Golem appear on TV. I can only think of that ‘Simpsons’ episode and there was a ‘X-Files’ episode years ago that had something to do with a Golem, but no movie. I mean I just love the whole concept to begin with and that you place the film in the 1600s in the Ukraine, it worked beautifully. What specifically made you want to go to that time frame?
DP: Ok, so first of all the mythology of the Golem in the Jewish folklore, a lot of the stories come from Eastern Europe. There are several different versions of Golem stories, by the way, not just one. The most famous one is about the Rabbi in Prague. The basic elements of all the different versions are always the same. There are people trying to destroy Jewish villages and kill the Jews. So this rabbi creates a Golem out of mud and clay and prayers and it come to life. The Golem saves the city or town, but eventually the Golem goes out of control and is unstoppable. So the rabbi has to kill it. That’s the basic story. We wanted to do a much more dramatic angle to the Golem story. So we thought ok how can we make this more interesting. We don’t want to make a movie about a four meter high creature that’s walking around the place. We didn’t want to make b-movie creature film. So we came up with the idea of making a Golem kid, which is much more interesting. Our film deals with motherhood and parenthood and what it’s like to create life and dealing with grief. In our film there’s a couple dealing with the grief of losing their child and now they’re dealing with a Golem child. So I think this story is something much more dramatic.
JO: That’s what I love about the horror genre is that you can get into these kind of deeper conversations and people maybe at first don’t even realize it because they’re just being entertained. But after the film when they think about the story, they’re like wow it goes so much further and deeper. So I love that about your film.
DP: Thank you. Me and my brother love horror movies, but when people think about horror movies they always think like ‘Chainsaw Massacre’ and tons of gore. But nowadays there’s a great revival of the genre. I think that the really good horror movies are much more sophisticated, dramatic, character-driven and deep. The psychology behind them is much more powerful than just seeing some jump scares and stuff like that.
JO: Oh absolutely! I think partially because of ‘Get Out’…people saw that and went like oh wait there’s so much more going on there. People are finally realizing that horror movies can actually be very deep. That’s why I love them and I love films like yours because they are character-driven and they are very interesting to watch.
DP: You can do like 1 or 2 jump scares in a horror movie, but if you’re going to do like 10 jump scares the audience eventually will want a good story.
I think that the really good horror movies are much more sophisticated, dramatic, character-driven and deep. The psychology behind them is much more powerful than just seeing some jump scares. – Doron Paz
JO: Oh absolutely. Yeah, I agree with that. What do you hope that people will take away from or enjoy the most from this film when they see it?
DP: I think what we’re happy to see in our screenings are what the reactions from the audience are. We’re so happy to see that people are relating to the dramatic angle of being a parent. What’s it like to deal with creating life. What’s it like to be a mother and how amazing it is. My brother and I are both fathers of girls. So when you stop and think about what’s it like as a woman to create life….it’s amazing. So we wanted to deal with this subject and not just to tell a scary movie, but to deal with being a parent and what’s it like. The audience gets emotional about this movie and women by the way, the film touches a lot of women so it’s not a typical horror film.
JO: I love the themes about motherhood and creation. But these themes are rare to see done well from male filmmakers. So I do appreciate it very much. But maybe because you both have daughters you understand that aspect,
DP: Thank you for saying that. Yeah, it does make a difference. I think it makes a difference.
JO: The main actress, Hani Furstenberg, who plays Hanna is amazing. How did you go about casting the film?
DY: We wanted Hani in it. She was living in New York, but in Israel at the time. So we approached her. She heard it’s a horror movie & a creature feature and didn’t want to do it. She didn’t even come to the audition. My brother and I, our first reaction was we were so insulted. Then she goes back home to New York and she read the script. She realized it’s not really a horror movie, that there’s all these other layers to it. That’s what made it more attractive her and she said I want to try out. Ishai Golan who plays Benjamin, we were so happy to have him. They both did an amazing job in the movie. We’re really proud of the acting. I think is very powerful.
JO: Obviously there’s children in the movie, like right from the beginning there’s a little girl in that first scene. I’m just curious how do you work with children when it is a scary circumstance. It seems like it would be very difficult.
DY: Yeah it’s much more delicate and much more difficult to do than working with an adult. This kid we found to play the Golem is this amazing kid, Konstantin Anikienko. We looked for so many kids in the Ukraine. We shot the movie in the Ukraine. Konstantin was amazing. He blew our minds, but he doesn’t know a word of English. He doesn’t know a word about this story. And I remember myself sitting with his mother just at the beginning of the production. We chatted and I was sitting with his mother and him and the translator and I think for 40 minutes I just explained the plot like beat to beat what’s happening in the movie to his mother and she was really into the story. I got to the end and she just starts crying and is very emotional. It was really emotional moment. And then she explained to Konstantin what was happening in broad strokes, obviously. But it was an amazing process. He was super professional, super talented and very disciplined. He worked really hard on the part. And you know it’s a lot of technical stuff with kids. Obviously they didn’t see all of the gore. There’s some really hard scenes in the film.
JO: I’m always amazed when I do speak with children actors like some of them their maturity level is unreal.
DP: Yes that’s what you want when you’re directing a kid. Konstantin was so professional. He understood that there are like 50 crewmen around here. You know, I have wardrobe and makeup artists and cameramen. You have to be a very mature child to realize that many people are employed during the production. We’re lucky to have found Konstantin. He was amazing. He would try very hard, but I think he had a really good experience. I know his mother always told us that he was having the best time.
JO: I’m curious what are some of you and your brother’s favorite films because you are both director/writers. What are some of the movies that you both have loved and made you want to get into filmmaking?
DY: Yeah, we always like to do edgy stuff. We like to deal with the dark side of human nature. We don’t see ourselves doing soft-core drama or romantic comedies.
JO: So there’s not going to be like a Golem love story next?
DY: No Golem musical either. We like something that’s more challenging for the mind not just the hyper realistic drama. So it doesn’t have to be necessarily horror, but we like…there’s so many movies that influence us, but it’s in the range of you know from ’Fight Club’ to ‘Requiem For A Dream’ to ‘Seven’. We like Fincher a lot. We like to create our own worlds. We don’t like those…you know there’s two approaches, the realistic approach and the fantasy approach. And they’re both great, but movies that are hyper-realistic, it’s not our thing. We like to create our own world.
JO: Well, I’m always attracted to movies that do that. I love that and I think you do it very effectively.
DY: Thank you.
ABOUT ‘THE GOLEM’
In this stunningly reimagined period horror version of an old mystical legend, a Jewish community in a shtetl are besieged by deadly intruders. Set in 17th century Lithuania, Hanna (Hani Furstenberg) the wistful, conflicted wife of the local rabbi’s son Benjamin (Ishai Golen), secretly turns to Jewish mysticism and The Kabbalah to conjure up a dangerous entity to protect her community. But the creature she molds out of mud and summons to life echoes her tragic past and becomes so dangerously connected to its creator, that Hanna can’t see what a heartless monster she has fashioned from abject fear and desperate loathing.
Director: Doron Paz & Yoav Paz
Writer: Ariel Cohen
Cast: Alex Tritenko, Brynie Furstenberg, Hani Furstenberg, Ishai Golan, Lenny Ravich, Konstantin Anikienko
Cinematography by: Rotem Yaron
Producers: Ariel Cohen, Doron Paz, Shalom Eisenbach, Yoav Paz
Company: Epic Pictures Group & Dread Central
Rating: NOT RATED (but contains gore & violence)
Runtime: 95 min