Although the nudity was tastefully done (it was passed by The National Board of Censors), it was still banned in Ohio and caused riots in New York. The mayor of Boston demanded that every frame displaying the naked figure of Truth be hand-painted to clothe the unidentified actress who portrayed her (one historian suggested that Lois Weber herself played the part). See more »
By today's standards, this is a very archaic film. However, compared to other films of the day, HYPOCRITES was a technical work of art. Unlike many directors of the day, Lois Weber used camera movement throughout the story--at a time when many directors kept the camera relatively still. In addition, she employed the use of double-exposures to create an ethereal and unusual look for the film. Together, these make this movie look so much nicer than a typical film from 1915.
On the other hand, the film is exceptionally moralistic and preachy--something that is quite typical of the day. But, in an odd twist, despite the moralizing, the film employed significant amounts of full nudity--though, believe it or not, in an artistic and inoffensive manner--though some audiences of the day freaked out at this! The film begins with a preacher delivering his sermon to a very unworthy audience. Most seem bored by the service and some even talk or read during the message--showing that the preacher was "casting his pearls before swine". So far, I liked the movie a lot--as a film about supposedly good people who were spiritually dead inside was intriguing. However, the film quickly lost me, as the movie shifted into an allegory--showing the same preacher now as an aesthetic saint trying to lead people on the "Road to Truth"--as illustrated in a trek up the side of a steep hill. In addition, Truth itself was now illustrated in the form of a nude woman who is almost ghost-like whenever she appears. Why is she naked? Well, because in Truth there is no shame and nudity, Weber reasoned, is nothing to be ashamed of in and of itself (a VERY modern notion).
At the time, many liked the film and many were shocked. Today, the nudity, while very explicit, seems rather innocent and I would certainly let kids see the film because there is no attempt to provide "cheap thrills". Overall, however, I wish the film had been a bit less obvious as well as not so preachy. The idea was great, but when seen today, it all seems terribly old fashioned...despite the nudity and excellent film work. Not bad, but in my opinion, not among the very greatest silent films.
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