Tuesday, April 8, 2008

5. Intolerance - 1916

Director: D. W. Griffith

Synopsis: Four stories from different time periods are sort of related because there is differing levels of intolerance and love in them. In ancient Babylon, a girl discovers the king is going to be brought down. In modern times (1916), a woman's husband is sentenced to death. In France, there is a massacre on St. Bartholomew's Day. In Judea, Jesus does some stuff and is crucified.

Review: I had some trouble getting into this movie. One, the picture quality on the DVD was terrible. Part of it was film deterioriation, but I'm not sure how much was bad cinematography. The DVD kept stopping because of some scratches on it. Many of the title cards were impossible to read because of a white font on a light grey background. It's much easier to read here than on screen, but here's an example:

I can not read this.
Not only does Intolerance introduce non-linear story telling to cinema, it does it as well as anything today. Griffith knew how to cut back and forth between the stories at the right time to leave us wanting more and make us think a lot more is happening than it is (one of the main reasons for non-linear stories in cinema). Every episode of Lost pretty much owes Griffith big time.

The problem with combining these stories is that they don't relate. The theme is weak. Also, two of the stories (the massacre and Jesus) are not interesting. Cutting them would have been a bad move then you'd have only two stories and the theme would have been even less successful.

The movie is impressive though. Look at that shot of Babylon. Those are not miniatures. There are really that many people dancing around. Speaking of a lot of people, here are some people getting ready to attack Babylon:

Nothing had come close to this scale. The movie actually cost about 2 million dollars which was unheard of and probably explains why they kept showing that shot of Babylon over and over again. It's still pretty impressive looking today and that's the first time I can say that on this list.
I probably should have liked this movie more than I did, but by the end I was getting bored. There were simply too many stories that didn't go together. Every time I got stuck in the middle of a St. Bartholomew's Day massacre section I couldn't remember why this was going on other than "HAY GUYZ! INTOLERANCE EVERYONE!" I recommend this, but only for its sheer scale and innovation.

The full movie isn't available online.

Score: 7/10

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