Sunday, July 1, 2012

#49 Intolerance: Love's Struggle Throughout the Ages (1916)

I survived! It took three days for me to watch this three-hour silent movie and maybe a twenty-minute nap somewhere in there, but I watched it all!

D.W. Griffith wrote and directed this, the oldest movie on the AFI list. He also wrote and directed A Birth of a Nation, another epic about the Civil War which was extremely racist and pro-KKK, even for its day... probably owing to the fact that he was the son of a Confederate colonel. So, as sort of an apology for the racial prejudice displayed in Birth of a Nation, he wrote this story about love versus intolerance. Maybe "intolerance" didn't mean the same thing back in 1916 as it does now, but I feel like "injustice" would have been a better title for the movie.

What made this film ground-breaking for its day is that it tells four stories, jumping from story to story. The four stories really have nothing to do with each other but the common theme of "intolerance."

1. 539 BC: A mountain girl falls in love with a prince and gets caught up in the religious disagreements that lead to the fall of Babylon.
2. 32 AD: The tale of Jesus and the injustice that leads to his crucifixion
3. 1572: King Charles IX is persuaded to persecute the Huguenots, and they focus on two lovebird Protestants.
4. 1916 (Modern Story): A boy gets mixed up in the Mafia and is framed for crimes he didn't commit, he is sentenced to a hanging, and his poor wife has her child stolen from her because she has whiskey in her home. (This was easily the most entertaining story.)

I don't really know how to review this because it is so different from any other movie I've ever seen (including the two true silent films I've seen, Sunrise and Gold Rush, both about a decade later). The acting is over-the-top; the title cards seem to be written almost in another language; jumping from scene to scene seems clunky and abrupt; people have weird 'names' like "Brown Eyes" and "Dear One"; and there are SO, SO, SO many scenes of Babylon that are unnecessary. But for the time period, this is a masterpiece.

Rating: 5/10? It's also hard to say whether I liked it or not. I definitely don't need to see it ever again, but it was interesting.

Big Names: Lillian Gish (#17 in AFI's list of the 50 Greatest Screen Legends), Mae Marsh

Big "Lines": When women cease to attract men, they often turn to reform as a second option. (This made me laugh... old maids don't have anything better to do, so they start judging people instead.)