Birth Of A Nation, The

7. THE BIRTH OF A NATION (1915-U5A). Directed by D.W, GRIFFITH. With LILLIAN GISH, HENRY B. WALTHALl, MAE MARSH. MIRIAM COOPER. “It is like history written with lightning.Ó So stated President Woodrow Wilson upon seeing Griffith’s epic drama of the Civil War. With this immortal masterpiece, the cinema was born, and was instantly established as the art form of the 20th century. By any standard, it remains one of the most important films of all time. Griffith, the son of a Confederate colonel, was so anxious to create a romantic picture of the Old South, and to portray the devastation caused by the War and Reconstruction, that he poured all of his money and enormous energy into the project; the budget ($110,000), shooting schedule (9 weeks) and running time were all unprecedented. (Remember that the average movie of that era was two reels long! The film is justly famous for its painsÂtaking recreations of the historical milieu and its awesomely spectacular battles. But Griffith also focused on intimate human drama, showing the war’s tragic effects on both a Northern and Southern family, and on the touching romance between a member of each. The film has always been extremely controversial because of its alleged racist stereotypes and its sympathetic portrayal of the Ku Klux Klan, but Griffith sincerely believed that he had presented a fair, accurate picture of the South. In any case, the film’s sheer emotional power and Griffith’s artistry transcend the social implicaÂtions. Among the many techniques he brought to perfection: the iris, the fade, masking, panning, tracking, close-ups, expressive lighting, and parallel editing. Often cited are his intercutting of massive battle scenes with shots of a family praying; the famous ride of the Klan, intercut with simultaneous events, and gathering momentum toward an overÂwhelming climax; the iris of a mother and children huddled together upon a hilltop, from which Griffith opens out to reveal an extreme long shot of soldiers wreaking devastation far below: and the memorable shot in which the arm of an unseen woman comes out of a doorway and gently draws her homecoming son inside. Film critic James Agee described it best: “(The film) is equal with Brady’s photographs, Lincoln’s speeches. Whitman’s war poems… it is equal, in fact, to the best work that has been done in this country. And among moving pictures it is alone… as the one great, epic, tragic film.” With a 1930 sound prologue by D.W. GRIFFITH (the only existing film interview with the master). This version is the most complete print known to exist. Silent film with music score, correct projection speed. 202 minutes. D.W. Griffith