Intolerance: Love’s Struggle Throughout the Ages

Year: 1916
Production Co: Triangle Film Corporation
Director: D W Griffith
Producer: D W Griffith
Writer: D W Griffith
Cast: Mae Marsh

This review is less about the film that it is the language of a medium can change about how over the course of a century to such an extent the delivery of a story can be completely alien.

D W Griffith's sweeping follow-up to Birth of a Nation, it's an almost three hour movie about love's struggle to flourish through several historical ages, and we jump back and forth between scenes of modern (for the era) high society, ancient Babylon, Judea in the time of Christ and middle ages Paris.

When the lead actress playing a young teenager died old enough to be an old age pensioner a few years before you were born, you're staring across a very wide gulf of changing ideas in filmmaking technology, scriptwriting and the tempo of effective drama.

Most of us are used to knowing what's going in a film thanks to the characters speaking to each other. I always thought silent films did the same, stopping the film to display title cards with the intended dialogue. But Griffith lets the film go on for long periods, breaking for a title card to give you the vaguest idea of what's gone on.

The result - assuming you're not a student of early 20th century film fascinated by the production technology, costumes and sets - is that you'd be able to digest the whole story in 15 minutes by flipping through a book of the title cards.

This was a film for another kind of movegoer, one that was impressed enough just to see moving pictures on the screen and captivated by a seemingly magical technology most people in the Western World today have on their desks. Whatever the achievements at the time or its historical importance, it simply can't impress and consequently I got barely an hour in.

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