• Performing the Dance of the Dead

Seeing The Possession last week, which improbably centered on the Jewish folk legend of the dybbuk, made me want to revisit the Polish-shot, Yiddish-language film in which the character received star billing. The Dybbuk (1937) was adapted from a 1914 play by S. Ansky (who had based it on folktales he collected during his ethnographic studies of Jewish shtetlach in Russia and Ukraine) and directed by Michał Waszyński (nee Mosze Waks), a Polish Jew who had apprenticed with F.W. Murnau in Berlin. Waszyński had changed his name and converted to Catholicism by the time he directed the film, but it’s still unmistakably the work of a Jewish artist—not only in its inclusion of religious rituals, but in its knowing depictions of Jewish family life, its polar forces of security and guilt.