Sunday, September 13, 2009

03. The Birth of a Nation (1915)

Running Time: 187 minutes
Directed By: D.W. Griffith
Written By: Frank E. Woods, D.W. Griffith, from the novel The Clansman: An Historical Romance of the Ku Klux Klan, the novel The Leopard's Spots, and the play The Clansman by Thomas F. Dixon Jr.
Main Cast: Lillian Gish, Mae Marsh, Henry B. Walthall, Miriam Cooper, Mary Alden, Ralph Lewis, George Slegmann, Walter Long


Well after many years of being a self proclaimed movie buff, I finally sit myself down and watch The Birth of a Nation. A movie that I had heard was a pioneer in film making, and yet very controversial at the same time. Well now I can say I've seen it...

...OH! You want my opinion?...Okay.

Well it was a hell of a chore to sit through, I'll say that right off the bat. Not counting the two that I've previously watched from the book, it's only the second silent film I've ever seen (the other being The Gold Rush by Charlie Chaplin, which we'll get to later on down the road).

We start out in the pre-Civil War days and two families are introduced: The Camerons of the South and the Stonemans of the North. They are two families who are acquainted, and who are good old chums. We see them visiting each other and Ben Cameron falls in love with a picture of Elsie Stoneman.

Then the Civil War breaks out and that goes on for quite sometime. It takes us through to about the ninety minute mark of the film, when the North wins the Civil War and Lee surrenders to Grant. From there, we are taken to the Ford Theatre (sound familiar?) where President Lincoln is shot dead and Mr. Stoneman takes up as "Greatest Power in the Nation".

Then we head into the Reconstruction. This is where the film takes a rather devious and evil turn. Mr. Stoneman and his protege Silas Lynch (who is of a mulatto skin tone) head south to make sure that there agenda goes as planned. The blacks are now given the sole right to vote and take over the House of Representatives and are painted as vicious tyrants who oppress the white people.

One day Ben Cameron gets an idea to form a group of men who will go around and terrorize the black people and hopefully, eventually gain back their power. They call themselves the Ku Klux Klan (KKK).

So, in short, from there the "heroes" of the film, the KKK, run rough shot over the land and eventually regain their stature in society. A parade is thrown for them and they are lauded.


Despite the incredibly racist tones of this movie, you have to give it something for being an innovator. Considering the film is 90 years old, it is unbelievable the things that Griffith achieved with this 187 minute epic. The battle scenes, the extras, the camera is all fantastic and I won't take anything away from it, in that respect.

The two big thins I will take away from it, is the fact that (1) It's an extremely racist film and one that I cannot condone and (2) It is very hard to sit through this thing. It gets very boring in some parts and very tedious to watch.

So the final verdict: Yes, see it once for historical value. I really don't think you can call yourself a film buff until you've seen this landmark picture. I'm very glad that I got a chance to see it in my lifetime, and after all that's what this mission is all about for me. But I will warn you one last time, it is quite boring.

Rating: 3/10 When adding up all the factors, I really cannot go higher than a 3. If anyone's reading this, I know I'm probably gonna get scolded beyond belief for that rating and be told I have no right to be watching films if I can't appreciate Griffith's masterpiece, but based purely on my enjoyment level a 3/10 is appropriate.

NEXT UP: Les Vampires....OH THE HORROR!!!

September 13, 2009 2:20am

1 comment:

  1. Wow I may rethink doing this project if I have to sit through that! LOL Well I guess since it is a landmark picture it is worth it to atleast be able to say you seen it.


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