Saturday, March 8, 2014


In the beginning...She Blinded Me With Silents (Post 4 of 12)


The 1997 American Film Institute list of top American movies of the century had D. W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation ranked at number #44. But in the 2007 updated list, that controversial film was taken off the list all together. In its place, jumping from no ranking in 1997 to number #49 for the new list is another D. W. Griffith film, Intolerance.

Like Birth of a NationIntolerance (Griffith's attempt to link four stories throughout history by showing episodes featuring examples of intolerant behavior) seems to divide people on its merits, too. It's detractors tend to call it an overblown mess, where Griffith's stories basically run amok without the cohesion it needs. And they say it's boring...and real long. It even got it's own chapter in Harry and Michael Medved's book The Hollywood Hall of Shame (gasp!).

But it's supporters (and there are many) see it as a remarkable example of storytelling. The epic nature of the stories (The Fall of Bablylon, the story of Christ, the French St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre and a contermporary crime story) come together as one all linked through the continuing shot of eternal motherhood (Lillian Gish) rocking the cradle of life.

I admit, that with a three and a half hour running time that seems a lot longer than that, I tend to side more with the camp that isn't that enthralled with Mr. Griffith's presentation. The best of the sections is the contemporary one and the film seems to wander off course whenever it veers away from this story. There are parts of the Babylon story that are pretty interesting and the set for that section is really amazing. And I must admit, that as the four stories were winding down, I began to like what I was seeing on the screen. Everything seemed to be finally be fitting together finally. The problem was that it took me over three hours to get to that point. If I hadn't been watching this because I wanted to finally be able to say I've seen Intolerance, I'm not so sure I would have gotten through it. But by God, I've seen Intolerance!

1 comment:

  1. I am in that last category as well. Man, this was long and boring until something finally made sense. But it was an awesome set.