...engaging and discerning culture, as a way of life...

October 26, 2006

The Birth of a Nation - 7

50 years after the Civil War, D.W. Griffith commemorates in this film about reconstruction in the South following the war. If you have three hours, this is a great history lesson. It was an amazing lesson in filmmaking for me. In 1915, there is not audio, beside the classical music that scores the film. And obviously no color film, although this film uses creative use of filters and film- black and white for outdoors, sepia for indoors, and a red filter to signify night. The film uses text shots to give the view the story and some of the dialogue between the characters. This means that the actors have to move the story along with there bodies (which they do quite well, sometime to comedic effect- the emotions come through the screen for some of the actors/actress'. This made me realize even more the genius of Charlie Chaplin, who didn't need dialogue to tell a story). The narrative covers some of the battles of the war, Lee's surrender to Grant, Abraham Lincoln's assassination, and the rise of the Klu Klux Klan. It uses two families, one from the North, the other from the South, to show how their conflicting views play out as the country tries to go through this huge transition. While the film uses warnings (it uses the argument that seeing it on screen will help the audience understand the tragedy of war and do better) to try to speak against war, racism, and violence, its naivete was proved by the further uprising of the KKK and what turned out to be one of the bloodiest centuries. This film is must see for the serious film critic (I'm not quite there yet), it uses some very prime camera techniques that have been further developed, but it had little before it to use, it had to sort of invent techniques. We've come along way (there are homemade videos on YouTube that are more technically advanced, now if we could concert our efforts on a good story). The film makes an interesting case about the history that shaped America most, it is an acute picture.

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