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The Birth of a Nation


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I'm working on a new blog and watched a couple of D.W. Griffith movies including Orphans of the Storm and The Birth of a Nation.  I must say, especially The Birth of a Nation, I was rather amazed at the scope of what D.W. did at that time (1915).   The Birth of a Nation is a difficult film to watch because of the obvious racism but the film itself is a marvel, the war scenes are extremely effective and the acting is excellent.  I found both Birth of a Nation and Orphans of the Storm to be an emotional experience and I felt almost drained at the end of both.  Both to me are a little too long, I think D.W. could have been just as effective in cutting it down a good half an hour.   Some scenes feel overly drawn out - especially suspenseful scenes where you wish the person would just be rescued already.    I actually wish he had stopped The Birth of a Nation after the first part (the storyline and the Civil War) and had not continued on with the Ku Klux Klan section.  The first part was so impressive but it's very hard to enjoy the second part. 

I had previously seen Broken Blossoms (one of my absolute favorites) and Way Down East so I was familiar with D.W. Griffith films.   Would it be fair to say D.W. Griffith was the first major feature film director in the U.S. (certainly the first epic film director - a title sometimes wrongly attributed to Cecile B. DeMille, I feel).  What are your thoughts? 

The Birth of a Nation.jpg

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I've seen it, and my thought is that it is some amazing filmmaking in the service of pure evil.

If you're studying the technique of film, then it is definitely worth studying, even if you're not keen on the subject.   See Leni Riefenstahl.  The history of art  is full of people who have viewpoints we reject, either because society has rightly moved on from them, or because they're just terrible people, yet they still made valuable contributions.

But of course, most people don't just stand back and dispassionately analyze camera angles and composition.   We go to films to feel something, and if something in a film leaves a bad taste in your mouth, that's perfectly legitimate.   If you're uncomfortable watching something,  sometimes all that means is that your soul still works,

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