The Stoneman family finds its friendship with the Camerons affected by the Civil War, both fighting in opposite armies. The development of the war in their lives plays through to Lincoln's assassination and the birth of the Ku Klux Klan.
Three centuries before Christus. Young Cabiria is kidnapped by some pirates during one eruption of the Etna. She is sold as a slave in Carthage, and as she is just going to be sacrificed to... See full summary »
Intolerance and its terrible effects are examined in four historical eras. In ancient Babylon, a mountain girl is caught up in the religious rivalry that leads to the city's downfall. In Judea, the hypocritical Pharisees condemn Jesus Christ. In 1572 Paris, unaware of the impending St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre, two young Huguenots prepare for marriage. Finally, in modern America, social reformers destroy the lives of a young woman and her beloved.Written by
Erik Gregersen <email@example.com>
The Babylonian orgy sequence alone cost $200,000 when it was shot. That's nearly twice the overall budget of The Birth of a Nation (1915), another D.W. Griffith film and, at the time, the record holder for most expensive picture ever made. See more »
An extra out of character, fumbling with his costume, in the Belshazzar feast sequence. See more »
When women cease to attract men, they often turn to reform as a second option.
See more »
Constance Talmadge is credited as 'Georgia Pearce' for her performance as Marguerite de Valois in the French Story. She is credited under her own name in the role of The Mountain Girl in the Babylonian Story. See more »
According to Kevin Brownlow and John Kobal's book 'Hollywood: The Pioneers,' the version released in Mexico is rearranged so that the four stories play back to back, without any inter-cutting. See more »
My primary interest in this was as a foundation of cinema; so an academic interest, but - having influenced so many things I am very keen on - not without some excitement at the prospect of discovery of this early common source.
So much of cinema flows out from this; a host of recognizable names tutored on set - Von Stroheim, Tod Browning, Woody Van Dyke, Victor Fleming, Elmer Clifton, Jack Conway, King Vidor - and even more once the film rippled across the world. In Moscow, it was the raw material film students were given to dismantle in Lev Kuleshov's fledgling film school, the first ever. And in France Abel Gance must have been awe-struck by the sheer size of the canvas, if his own films offer any clue.
So yes, a fast-paced, lavish blockbuster - it cost at the time an unprecedented $2m to make - with literally a cast of thousands animating history, the story of Hollywood excess begins here - in Italy it had started earlier, with their Roman spectacles. The filmmaker as god, who does not simply photograph reality but constructs entire worlds, permits our vision to travel in the places that we could earlier only imagine.
But the fundamental technique is still from the theatre; that means a grand stage - elevated from us, separate - with every now and then a different backdrop, actors who pantomime sweeping emotion, the eye usually fixed in a distance. Oh the camera moves, but it moves with the stage. And what a grand stage it is.
I suppose it must have been desirable at the time when cinema, and so the possibilities of seeing, made the world feel so new and perhaps so alive again, when so many of the trials and heroism of the world narrative were yet to be immortalized in this new way, that a film like this should try to encompass so much; the Crucifixion, medieval France, ancient Babylon, they're all urgently envisioned in the same space.
It is in more ways than one that Griffith wrote the history of cinema then; by pioneering what he did in terms of a film language, but also by creating a vast expanse - a daunting 3 hours of film - that fills the prehistoric void, in terms of cinema, with a cachet of images, that creates a history of images. Now with the Pharisees or at the Persian camp of Cyrus, the court of Catherine or the harems of Babylon, common streets old and new; now we could point back and see, in a small measure, a history of film gathered in one place. So, when Kuleshov had tasked his students to rework the film, the choice was wise. There is so much here in terms of images, and so fertile for remodeling, that essentially he was presenting them with the empty sheet to write music on - that music, a deeply modernist product of synthesis, we called montage.
What does this filmmaker - as god - see though, what kind of worldview does he spring into life, this is more interesting I believe.
The title summarizes well. So, a cruel - but institutionalized, thus state sanctioned - evil threatening to engulf and dissolve all that is kind, which is the individual life, and of course the warm sentimentality that eventually restores faith in the personal struggle. But nothing casts a shadow in this world, no depth or dimension beyond the plainly conceivable. So the people are straight-forward beings, either good or bad - our heroine is simply called The Dear One - or misguided at their most complex; or, when en masse, they are part of the decor, collectively writhing in some extravagant background.
By the end, a heavenly chorus of angels illuminate the sky above a battlefield. The immediate contrast, like so much in the film, disarms with how much painstaking vision must have gone into making something so splendorous yet so naive. We can pretend like we ought to make amends with the time it was made, just like we can't pretend to look away with indifference, but the point remains; far more complex works of art had been made before, far less didactic about their humanitarian values.
You should at least see the segment with the siege of Babylon though, and the final scenes cross-cutting across time and space as we rush to the climax; it's things like these that so much was founded on.
(And another image that I recommend to those of you who have been charting all this; it is an inexplicable, tight close-up of the girl who is almost brushing, breathing into the camera. It happens once, and suggests intimacy that is never again encountered in the film. It's as though the girl, and so this cinema, is yearning to cross over into a new kind of film where faces hold all the mysteries and performances visualize innermost soul. Jean Epstein would make those films, ushering us in a new perception)
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