The Dybbuk

In The Dybbuk, as in mysticism and love, the past has a magnetic pull on the present, and the dead are as alluring as the living. Khonnon (Leon Liebgold) and Leah (Lili Liliana), pledged to each other before birth, meet, knowing nothing of the vows. Khonnon becomes obsessed with Leah and begins to dabble in the kabbalah. Leah is betrothed to a wealthy man, and Khonnon offers her his body, soul, and intelligence-via Satan-and dies. Leah's father invites the spirit of her dead mother to the wedding; Leah invites Khonnon from the grave. The film is filled with haunting, unforgettable scenes that verge on the surreal; Jewish mysticism here links with cinematic Expressionism. S. An-ski's play was written during the turbulent years of 1912 to 1917, based on an earlier ethnographic expedition; Waszyński's 1937 film, made during another period of prewar unease, intensifies the folkloristic dimension, depicting a rich, colorful, and at times exotic heritage.

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