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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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Ted Shawn and Ruth St. Denis appear as solo dancers on the Babylonian steps. Though St, Denis always denied this (insisting she had never appeared in silent films), Shawn confirmed the appearance. The couple operated their famous Denishawn dance school in Los Angeles at the time and were major dance stars of the era. See more »
In the modern story, when Jenkins stops outside the dance hall, he picks up a coin in one hand. In the next shot (a close-up of the coin), it is in the opposite hand. 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 »
This silent film by director D.W. Griffith is well known to serious movie buffs and historians, but not to today's general public. I doubt that a lot of people these days would have the patience to sit through a film that contained three hours of silence. Nevertheless, the film's technical innovations inspired filmmakers in the 1920's and later, particularly in Russia and Japan. It also inspired filmmakers in the U.S., including Cecil B. DeMille and King Vidor. For this reason, and for other reasons, "Intolerance" is an important film.
The film's four interwoven stories, set in four different historical eras, are tied together thematically by the subject of "intolerance", a word which could be accurately interpreted today as "oppression", "injustice", "hate", "violence", and mankind's general inhumanity.
Griffith's narrative structure, though innovative, is uneven, because he gives more screen time to two of the four stories (the "modern" and the "Babylonian"). Equal time for three stories, thus deleting the fourth, might have worked better.
To me, the Babylonian story is the most interesting one because of its more complete coverage, and because of its elaborate costumes and spectacular sets. Even though there is no script, the viewer can easily discern the plot, which suggests that some of today's films might be just as effective, or more so, if screenwriters would downsize the dialogue.
What "Intolerance" offers most of all to contemporary viewers is a sense of perspective. Someone once said that despite the enormous advances in technology, society itself has advanced not at all. That may be true. In the eighty plus years since the film was released, technical advances in film-making have been obvious and impressive. But we are still plagued with the same old human demons of oppression, injustice, hate, violence, and ... intolerance.
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