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The Dybbuk

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Liebgold, Liliana, Morewski, Samberg, Sirota; Wasznski, dir. Cantorial selection, songs. (1937). 121 m. Yiddish, with English subtitles. B&W.

DVD Region 0 (all regions) PCM audio.

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The Dybbuk is poignant and sometimes mesmerizing. It rewards you with a mystical fervor and a layered emotionality that are rare in movies of any era.”–The New Yorker

“It has an enthralling power and is magnificently acted. Here is a motion picture of spellbinding strangeness and extraordinary distinction.”–International Herald Tribune

“Nothing Hollywood has done can compare with the seriousness of The Dybbuk.“–Parker Tyler, Magic and Myth of the Movies

“I think it one of the most solemn attestations to the mystic powers of the spirit the imagination has ever purveyed to the film reel.”–Parker Tyler, Classics of the Foreign Film

“By far the finest Yiddish film production ever offered here is Irving Geist’s impressive presentation of Ansky’s The Dybbuk. The Dybbuk should immediately be placed on the ‘Must’ list of those who enjoy unusual and exceptional movies. The musical score by H. Kon is extremely beautiful–gay in the festival scenes, and stirring in the ritual songs rendered by chief cantor Gerson Sirota. No matter what your religion or nationality, we recommend The Dybbuk to you as a truly worthwhile screen achievement.”–Irene Thirer, New York Post, January 27, 1938

“We accept and we find in the screen version of The Dybbuk one of the most moving pieces of drama that we ever want to see.”–Herbert Cohn, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, January 29, 1938

 

The film is highly stylized. One of the dance sequences is like a Brueghel painting sprung to life; the living mingle with the dead physically and thus emotionally.

When Caruso heard Sirota sing “Celeste Aïda” in a concert, he reportedly thanked God the cantor had chosen “to employ his heavenly gift in a different field.” Sirota, born in Russia in 1874, officiated as cantor in Odessa, Vilna and Warsaw. He made cantorial recordings beginning in 1903. From 1927-35, he sang concerts throughout Europe and in the U.S. He and his family perished in the Warsaw ghetto in 1943. In this film he is heard for a few minutes.
The Dybbuk was filmed on location in Kazimierz, Poland, and in a Warsaw studio in 1937. —Stefan Zucker

“Kazimierz was historically perfect. It even had a small cemetery. The Jewish population, or almost all of it, had something to do with The Dybbuk, appearing in its mass scenes.”–Leon Liebgold, The Dybbuk’s male lead, interviewed in The New York Times, September 10, 1989

“Sirota was one of the most highly trained cantors of all time. His octave leaps, perfect three-note runs up the scale, fabulous trills, facile coloratura, are unrivaled by any other recording tenor.”–Arthur E. Knight, The Record Collector

The Dybbuk is the most widely produced play in the history of Jewish theater. It has been performed in Yiddish, Hebrew, German, Polish, English, Ukranian, Swedish, Bulgarian, Czech, Serbian, French and Japanese.