Showing posts with label 1915. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1915. Show all posts

24 July 2013

The Birth Of A Nation (Masters Of Cinema) Blu-Ray Review

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Rating:NR
BD Release Date (UK):
29th July 2013
Director:
D.W. Griffith
Cast:
Lillian Gish, Mae Marsh, Henry B. Walthall
Buy: (BLU-RAY)

The Birth of a Nation is one of the most notorious films in film history and rightfully so. The film is probably the most important film of the silent only possibly topped by Battleship Potemkin. The film is directed by one of the very first true masters of cinema D.W. Griffith and is rightfully included in Eureka’s Masters of Cinema range. The film over the almost 100 years since it’s release has been indicted for being just racist trash. It’s no questionably incredibly racist but it’s a film with full of such amazing cinematic craftsmanship. The racism is so over the top are times it’s laughable especially the infamous 2nd half.

The film is a nutshell is about 2 families; one is Northern Stonemans and the Southern Camerons. They are friendly and one of the Stoneman boys falls in love with one of the Cameron girls. However the American Civil War happens. Sons of both families die during the war. After the war John Wilkes Booth (played by later noted director Raoul Walsh) assassinates President Abraham Lincoln.

The radical congressmen are determined to punish the South and by doing so they alienating white Southerners. Ben Cameron forms the Ku Klux Klan to fight back against the radical congressmen giving blacks “more rights than their white counterparts.” The film becomes increasingly becomes more and more absurd especially with the fried chicken eating mostly black legislature scene and the portrayal of African Americans as basically anarchic savages. To add insult to injury most of the black characters in that lovely old technique of blackface and the “Negro speak” intertitles are absurd.

The film boosts truly stunning cinematography and composition. The battle scenes are truly stunning and the end scenes with the KKK on horseback racing down to save the white people of the town are spellbinding. D.W Griffith are invented most of the editing techniques that are still used today. The film basically started feature length films as a realistic option, they’re about a dozens attempts previously… mostly lost sadly. It started the rise of Hollywood as a dominating force in the world for better or worse.

The Birth of a Nation a is film that is very much of it’s time and that has to be taken into account when your watch it. The film is clearly racist and pro-KKK even though D.W Griffith’s own beliefs has been much debating in the almost 100 years since it’s release. However as everyone knows the time it was made was a very racist time decades before the civil rights movement. His next film Intolerance was his response to the film’s criticism over its portrayal of the KKK and African Americans. Intolerance was all about how we should all come together and be tolerant of each other.

The film is an important piece of history that shouldn’t be dismissed outright. The film still deserves to be studied by students of film. The great Charles Chaplin once said “D.W Griffith was the teacher of us all” and he had a point. Masters of Cinema as always has released the film with loads of bonus features including a documentary and many of D.W Griffith’s civil war short films on both blu-ray and dvd.

★★★★

Ian Schutz