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Gabriel de Gravone
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Lydia Yeamans Titus,
Henriette and Louise, a foundling, are raised together as sisters. When Louise goes blind, Henriette swears to take care of her forever. They go to Paris to see if Louise's blindness can be cured, but are separated when an aristocrat lusts after Henriette and abducts her. Only Chevalier de Vaudrey is kind to her, and they fall in love. The French Revolution replaces the corrupt Aristocracy with the equally corrupt Robespierre. De Vaudrey, who has always been good to peasants, is condemned to death for being an aristocrat, and Henriette for harboring him. Will revolutionary hero Danton, the only voice for mercy in the new regime, be able to save them from the guillotine? Written by
John Oswalt <firstname.lastname@example.org>
D.W. Griffith decided to enlarge the scope of the melodrama by weaving in historical details from the French Revolution including the historical figures Danton and Robespierre. He made every effort to be true to real events and took additional inspiration from A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens and History of the French Revolution by Thomas Carlyle, which Lillian Gish noted every major player in the film studied. Carlyle's book was, in fact, also a major influence on Dickens, who took the incident of an aristocrat's carriage running over a small child from Carlyle's book See more »
Early in the Paris scenes there are two bare-chested revolutionaries. One has visible tan lines showing that he had worn a 20s lifeguard-style two-strap bathing suit. See more »
A masterpiece from one of the great innovators of early cinema
First of all, I find it desperately necessary to remind the viewer of silent movies of the danger of analyzing these pieces under the lens of the modern cinemagoer. The aesthetic values of silent cinema are incommensurable with the values of modern cinema. Aside from the obvious difference that one relies purely on image while the other has the benefit of sound, we must also not forget that the cinema of the silent era is cinema in its infancy, in a constant state of the most early self-discovery (which is not to say that cinema has necessarily "grown up" or "progressed" into our modern era; our cinema today is only different than the cinema of the silent era, neither better nor worse.) Basically, we should check ourselves before we ridicule these films on the basis of irising, masking, et cetera and ESPECIALLY the exaggerated emotion and overblown gesturing of the actors. The conventions of the art of acting have, of course, their basis in that of the theatre, which preceded film, and where emphatic gesturing and stressed emotion was conventional in conveying story even to those seated in the back row.
All editorializing aside, Griffith's _Orphans of the Storm_ is a shining example of the director's masterful grasp of narrative cinema. The story is almost Dickensian in its feel, from its very beginning alternating between no less than five separate subplots, all of which become inextricably intertwined before the backdrop of the larger plot of the impending revolution in France. The acting performances are not, in fact, excessively overplayed, but are actually quite subtle and touching, especially those of the two orphans, the Gish sisters.
The visuals are stunning: the costumes and decor are lush and the recreation of late 18th century Paris is excellent. Most impressive to me is Griffith's expert command of montage, primarily through intercutting, in creating a engrossing story that, while complex in structure, is easily grasped. The film starts out on wobbly legs, but soon breaks into a steady gallop, raging through the glorious revolution to an admittedly predictable, yet satisfying conclusion. A grand achievement for one of the titans of early cinema: I give it a 9/10.
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