yiddish film


I’m working on a calligraphic commission for a client who wants me to include reference to his Lithuanian-Jewish heritage from Vilna (Vilnius). While researching imagery from Jewish Vilna, I found this charming film about Jewish Vilna from 1939 — in Yiddish with English subtitles. It shows various aspects of Jewish life in the city, the Jewish Quarter, synagogues, the marketplace, YIVO headquarters, and more. It ends with footage of Jewish children swimming and demonstrating athletics — an image of the flourishing Jewish future… Of course, Jewish Vilna was destined for horrendous destruction only a few years later. What a bittersweet treasure this film is!

Watch on under-the-observatory.tumblr.com

In exciting (if questionably legal) news, the entirety of The Dybbuk has been posted on youtube. Made in 1937, the film is based on the play by S. Ansky. Ansky spent years travelling around Galicia (Easter Poland and Western Ukraine) collecting the folk stories of Hasidic Jews, turning the legend of the dybbuk, a soul escaped from Sheol, into a play about love, death, Judaism, and otherworldly possession. Basically, all of the things that would peak my interest.

I’ll admit, I find sections of this movie boring. However, the musical scenes are great, the expressionist cinematography is worth checking out, and it gives you a great look at pre-war Kazimierz here in Krakow. If you don’t make it through the whole thing, be sure to watch the dance with death, which starts around 1:14. That’s worth the price of admission alone.