Movie 3min

The Wandering Jew (1904)

Original title: Le juif errant

+ 2 images
Director Georges Méliès
Country France
Language French
(Original) Le juif errant
(1904) Star-Film
(1904) Star-Film
13. Century Angels Based on Novel Black and White Christian Mythology Drama Fantasy Jesus Christ Jew Myth Short Silent Film The Devil The Road to Golgotha Trick Film Vision

An old jew, Isaac Laquedem, is condemned to roam the earth by Christ after he spat on Jesus on his road to Golgotha(and, in this film) refusing Him water. In this 13th-century myth(also called "The Eternal Jew"), he, a Jewish cobbler, walks, trips, gets up, falls, and then tries to sleep. In his dream, he relives the episode that sent him into exile. After successively meeting the devil and an angel he continues to walk throughout the earth in his eternal wandering(or until the Second Coming) with the elements raging around him. Méliès, know for his trick film pioneering cinema, show here that he master the effects and make full use of double exposure, stop motion, as well as background storm and lightning. It follows three tableaux, although the first contains two scenes. He also plays the role of the Jew himself.

A Jew who mocked Jesus on the cross is visited by a devil and an angel

4 Scenes
The descriptions are taken from the Star Films and Kleine Optical Co. catalog descriptions.
The Shore of the Dead Sea (Les bords de la mer Morte)
Isaac Laquedem, the Wandering Jew, enters driven by a relentless force, which will never permit him to stop and rest in his incessant wanderings. He is condemned to keep on walking throughout eternity, without respite, for having refused water to Christ on his way to Calvary. He is worn out from fatigue and falls upon his knees, but a voice from heaven, which perpetually pursues him, forces him to continue his way. "Walk! Walk!" These wearying words make him tremble. He gets up, but fatigue overcomes him and he falls back to earth and slumbers.
The Vision (La vision du Christ escaladant le sommet du Golgotha)
At this moment his brain is haunted by a nightmare. He perceives in the sky a vague vision. It is Christ, who ascends to the summit of a mountain, bearing his cross and followed by pious women, guards and people. Christ falls, and in his nightmare, Isaac Laquedem sees himself again, when he was a shoemaker, in his youth, refusing to Christ the water which was asked of him, and replying with a sneer: "Walk!" The vision fades away; the Wandering Jew rises. He rebels against the driving power, but is obliged to plod on in spite of his resistance.
The Cliffs of Despond (Les roches maudites)
The view has changed. Isaac Laquedem continues to move on always, and comes among some wild cliffs. There he would like again to take a rest, but Satan appears and tears his cane from his hands and beats the old man with terrific blows, and then suddenly disappears. At the same time the voice of heaven orders the Wandering Jew to resume his journey, and, in space, the figure of an angel appears; the latter with an imperious gesture, compels the accursed man to resume his wanderings.
The Elements Let Loose (Les éléments déchaînés)
The Wandering Jew pursues his perpetual course amid a frightful storm. He is assailed by torrents of water; flashes of lightning blind him; the wind whistles furiously, but on he plods.....he plods.....he plods always throughout the succession of the centuries.
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Georges Méliès - Isaac Laquedem
Georges Méliès - Producer
Georges Méliès - Director
Feels complete, even as a short film

I enjoyed this short film very much, as it feels complete and it's made by a Méliès who fully master his medium. I would say it's a more mature Méliès, able to tell a more complete and well-framed story with tricks that are spot on and not overdone. This film did not seem to be to show off the trickery, but rather it flowed into the storyline in a great way. The myth itself is a curious thing, a great topic, so I'm glad it made an occurrence in early cinema.