The Dybbuk (Der Dibuk)
RETROSPECTIVE: "MICHAL WASZYNSKI - THE PRINCE AND THE DYBBUK"
dir. Michał Waszyński, Polska, 1937 , 111min
The Dybbuk (Yiddish: דער דיבוק, Der Dibuk; Polish: Dybuk) is a 1937 Yiddish-language Polish fantasy drama directed by Michał Waszyński. It is based on the play The Dybbuk by S. Ansky (1914). Dybbuk by Michał Waszyński is often considered the best Yiddish film in the history of cinema.
In this mystical tale of star crossed lovers and supernatural possession, two friends tempt fate by betrothing their unborn children. Years later when the pledge is broken and the couple’s love is thwarted, Channon the young lover (Leon Liebgold, Tevye) turns to the dangerous power of the Kabbalah to win back his love (Lili Liliana, Kol Nidre). Made in Poland on the eve of WWII in a stylized, Expressionistic manner that has been called “Hasidic Gothic”.
Boundaries separating the natural from the supernatural dissolve as ill-fated pledges, unfulfilled passions and untimely deaths ensnare two families in a tragic labyrinth of spiritual possession. The film was made on location in Poland in 1937 (Kazimierz Dolny and in Feniks Film Studio in Warsaw) and brought together the best talents of Polish Jewry, script writers, composers, choreographers, set designers, actors and historical advisors. The film's exquisite musical and dance interludes evoke the cultural richness of both shtetl communities and Polish Jewry on the eve of World War II.
The Dybbuk is a Yiddish film classic based on the celebrated play of the same name by S. Ansky, written during the turbulent years of 1912-1917. The idea for the play came to Ansky as he led a Jewish folklore expedition through small towns of Eastern Europe, which was cut short by the outbreak of World War I. The Dybbuk reflects Ansky's deep perception of the shtetl's religious and cultural mores, as well as his insightful appreciation of its hidden spiritual resources. Plans to produce the play in Russian by Stanislavsky's Moscow Art Theater in 1920 were aborted by the Bolshevik Revolution. Ansky, who died in 1920 never lived to see his play produced. The play however, was destined to become one of the most widely-produced in the history of Jewish theater. Its rich ethnographic tapestry, mystical themes, star-crossed lovers and haunting melodies were designed to bridge the historical abyss.
Besides the language of the film itself, the picture is noted among film historians for the striking scene of Leah's wedding, which is shot in the style of German Expressionism. The film is generally considered one of the finest in the Yiddish language.