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Hal MacDermot [Celluloid 01.19.09] movie review drama fantasy



Year: 2008
Release date: Unknown
Directors: Karla Jean Davis
Writers: Karla Jean Davis
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: cyberhal
Rating: 6 out of 10

I don't think I've ever seen a film more genre than this. A black and white homage to German expressionist movies, think Robert Wiene's The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), Golgotha is Karla Jean Davis's labor of love, and wow what an imagination that girl has. I loved the OTT costumes, period captions, and especially Minion the goblin (Dianna Brown) with her cute pointy teeth and impish delight in everything evil. Golgotha is extremely original and a wonderful mix of cinematic techniques, but I did have trouble making it to the end of the movie. Despite the great look of the film, I found the story way too slow paced and I got bored. Also, the at-first-original- later-repetitive sound track drove me around the twist.




The movie opens at night, in the bedchamber of the old and evil sorceress Golgotha. She's at home in her dark castle, and outside the thunder crashes and lightning flashes. As the ageing, sick and wonderfully dramatic Golgotha lies on her bed, preparing to die, she recounts the story of her life to Minion, a tweaked but cute little elf/goblin thing with pointy teeth. The story proceeds in flashback from her time as little girl learning to be a witch, though to hot uber-witch controlling a kingdom and being mean to Princes, and later to old age. Flashbacks are intercut with brief scenes of Minion asking questions of Golgotha on her death bed.



Now, I don't really know much about German Expressionist movies, so I looked them up and it turned out that Wilhelm Murnau's Nosferatu (1922) is one. I think Fritz Lang's Metropolis might qualify too. It's good to know that this style of cinema was all about light and shadows, symbolism and imagery. The genre is not supposed to be "realistic" as such, and so don't expect that from Golgotha. Do expect crazy hair does, shaky looking model castles, exaggerated acting, pointy teeth and wooden swords. The camera work is interesting. Much of the movie is shot with the edges of the screen in shade, to give the impression of very camera. The picture jumps around every now and then, again to give that "old" feeling. Just like in those silent movies, we have the close ups of people's faces and eyes as they react to the world around them.
Karla Jean Davis clearly knows quite a bit about cinema, but I thought the story needed better pace.w The movie is full of great images, like cannibal minions and Golgotha herself, but it wasn't enough for me. It just got too self indulgent, for example the killing the costume dragon scene which took forever (actually about 7 minutes). The emotional subtext is that Golgotha, although she's mean to everyone, is still a woman in need of love. She vanquishes her enemies but ends up all alone. I don't have any problem with that at all, I just would have liked a few more twists and turns.



The sound track is a mix of dramatic organ music, cello and something that sounds like a mix of a violin and a woman's voice wailing/singing. To begin with, I thought it worked really well, although later on it drove me bananas. If I was judging the movie on technique and look, I'd have given an 8.5 or thereabouts, but despite the fact that I really have a great respect for what the director has achieved, it's not the easiest film to watch to the end.



BTW, just in case you didn't know, Golgotha was the name of the hill where Jesus was crucified:

"So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called the place of a skull, which is called in Hebrew Golgotha." John 19:17. Golgotha will be showing in February 2009 at the Con Nooga Convention in Tennessee.

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Thomas Grillo (9 years ago) Reply

The music which sounded like a woman singing was theremins. There were three thereminists on the musical staff. They were: Kevin Kissinger, Randy George, and my self.


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