Time machine: ‘Intolerance’ (1916)

My time machine entries in past posts have looked back at what the world was like 100 years ago through scratchy film. But were now getting to the apect of the time machine where high quality restorations are literally giving a new focus to videos from that past.

Here’s D.W. Griffith’s “Intolerance,” considered one of the masterpieces of film history. This movie, made up of four stories, is almost three hours long.

Despite the fact that it is a true classic, there is huge irony. It’s high minded subject matter, as you can tell by the title. And if that doesn’t convince you you’re going to experience lofty pronouncements, a title card at the very beginning says:

Each story shows how hatred and intolerance, through the ages, have battled against love and charity.

Very deep. But the director was the ultimate hypocrite. A year earlier, Griffith made “The Birth of a Nation,” also considered a masterpiece of film history, and without a doubt one, if not the most blatantly racist movie ever made. It’s a three hour, post Civil War epic. The bad guys are freed slaves. The good guys are the Ku Klux Klan. Here’s one of it’s title cards:

aaaaaawilsonbirthYeah, that’s a quote by President Woodrow Wilson. And it’s in “The Birth of a Nation.”¬†Wilson, after a White House showing, said this of “The Birth of a Nation”

“It is like writing history with lightning, and my only regret is that it is all so terribly true.”.

I’ll have a separate post, on this movie because it is worth seeing just to realize how ingrained racism was in America in the early 20th century.

Let’s view “Intolerance,” the film, in this post. We’ll see intolerance, the reality, in another.

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