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The Unchanging Sea (1910)

Not Rated | | Drama, Short | 5 May 1910 (USA)
In this story set at a seaside fishing village and inspired by a Charles Kingsley poem, a young couple's happy life is turned about by an accident. The husband, although saved from drowning... See full summary »

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Cast

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The Husband
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The Wife
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The Daughter as Small Child
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The Daughter as an Adult
Charles West ...
The Daughter's Sweetheart
...
Rescuer
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Storyline

In this story set at a seaside fishing village and inspired by a Charles Kingsley poem, a young couple's happy life is turned about by an accident. The husband, although saved from drowning, loses his memory. A child is on the way, and soon a daughter is born to his wife. We watch the passage of time, as his daughter matures and his wife ages. The daughter becomes a lovely young woman, herself ready for marriage. One day on the beach, the familiarity of the sea and the surroundings triggers a return of her father's memory, and we are reminded that although people age and change, the sea and the ways of the fisherfolk remain eternal. Written by Thomas McWilliams <tgm@netcom.com>

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Drama | Short

Certificate:

Not Rated
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5 May 1910 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Haabet  »

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1.33 : 1
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Connections

Remade as Enoch Arden: Part I (1911) See more »

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User Reviews

 
A poignant, understated gem
4 August 2002 | by See all my reviews

Anyone who believes that the acting in silent dramas was always laughably exaggerated should see The Unchanging Sea, which was directed by D. W. Griffith during his formative period at Biograph. Anyone who thinks the cinematography of 1910 was crude and murky should take a close look. And for that matter, anyone who thinks that these very early movies convey only the most basic emotional information in a primitive fashion, and therefore no longer have the power to move modern viewers (except perhaps to unintended laughter) should see this, too. There are no over the top histrionics on display; the tempo is measured and the characters' feelings, though not broadly indicated, are perfectly clear to us. Simple it may be, even simplistic, but The Unchanging Sea still packs a punch in its climactic reunion scene, which is admirably underplayed.

The setting is a small fishing village. Griffith conveys the steady routine of the characters' lives through his deliberately repetitive camera set-ups and editing rhythms. Although the story is based on a poem, the title cards are happily free of the excessively flowery wording sometime found in early dramas, including some of Griffith's. The story is conveyed by the performances, not by overly explicit announcements in title cards. Of special note is the shot in which our central figure, the wife of a fisherman, walks down to the sea with the men, including her husband, as they launch their boat. The husband has just learned that his wife is pregnant. We see her from behind as she watches the men depart, and we just know—it's there on the screen, we can feel it—that tragedy lies ahead. Again, nothing is italicized.

Like Enoch Arden, the fisherman is involved in a shipwreck and is separated from his family for a generation. Unlike Enoch Arden, whose tragic story Griffith would also dramatize at Biograph, this tale has a poignant, semi-happy ending.

You wonder about Griffith's reputation? Take a look at The Unchanging Sea. It isn't usually mentioned in the same breath with his most famous short films, but in its own quiet way it ranks alongside the best of them.


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