Los Angeles Times - 07/06/1990
"...There has never been a movie quite like INTOLERANCE, and few, if any, have been so influential..."
Sight and Sound - 08/01/2002
"...Here Griffith's remarkable editing scheme takes the film into virtually abstract realms, making it also a large-scale meditation on the nature of cinematic space and narrative construction..."
Entertainment Weekly - 01/11/2002
"...[With] miraculous cinematography, and charismatic performances..."
Description by OLDIES.com:
"D.W. Griffith's Colossal Spectacle" is considered by many critics to be the greatest film of the silent era. The lavish, innovative epic weaves four separate stories that depict the menace of hate, from ancient civilization up to the present day, tied together by a poignant motif of life's continuous struggle with good vs. evil in which the Eternal Mother (Lillian Gish) is seen rocking the cradle of humanity. Griffith's superb dramatization of intolerance is realized through the fall of Babylon, the Pharisees' condemnation of Jesus Christ, the persecution of Huguenots in 16th-century Paris during Catherine de Medici's regime and a contemporary morality play wherein social reformers destroy a young couple's pursuit of happiness.
After the swarm of controversy that Griffith experienced with The Birth of a Nation (1915), he used Intolerance to defensively answer his critics. At two million dollars, it was the most expensive film of its time; the outdoor set for the Babylon sequences was the largest ever created for a Hollywood picture, featuring a crowd of 16,000 extras. The nonlinear, cross-cutting narrative was among the many novel techniques that would influence the art of filmmaking for generations to come.
Silent film director D.W. Griffith's biggest, most ambitious spectacle uses stories from different times and places to illustrate humanity's intolerance of religious differences throughout the ages. The most visually impressive of these chronicles is the fall of Babylon, for which Griffith built the largest sets in Hollywood and filled them with thousands of extras; there's also Christ's crucifixion and the massacre of the Heugenots in 15th century France. The most emotionally involving tale is the "modern" one, about a poor girl (Mae Marsh) whose life is repeatedly ruined by the zealotry of social reformers. The image of a mother (Lillian Gish) rocking her child in a cradle ("the uniter of the here and hereafter") links the stories. At one point, angels reach down from heaven to stop soldiers in midbattle, making it clear that Griffith intended this follow-up to THE BIRTH OF A NATION as a message of global peace and love (and an answer to his critics' accusations of racism). For a nation poised to enter World War I, this was perhaps the wrong message, and INTOLERANCE opened to mixed reviews and poor attendance. It is now rightly recognized as a unique work of cinematic art. The restored version includes color-tinted scenes.
D.W. Griffith's large-scale epic spans several centuries and cultures. The film is made up of four distinct stories linked solely by a single common thread: intolerance. Three of the stories are based on historical fact: France during the reign of Charles IX; the birth and crucifixion of Christ; and the fall of Babylonia. The fourth tale is a "modern" story of greed, cruelty and betrayal.
INTOLERANCE was an original selection to the Library of Congress National Film Registry in 1989.
INTOLERANCE was released two years after THE BIRTH OF A NATION, and is widely regarded as director D.W. Griffith's protest and self-defense against the charges of racism leveled at him for BIRTH's glorification of the Ku Klux Klan.
Among the dancers in the Babylonian sequence was the young Martha Graham, performing at the time with modern dance choreographer Ruth St. Denis's company.
As was the case with THE BIRTH OF A NATION, Griffith continued to tinker with the finished product during the following years, cutting out scenes and re-editing. But in 1989, Gillian B. Anderson and Peter Williamson created a reconstructed version using all available footage as well as still photographs to substitute for missing sequences; this restoration gave a better sense of what the original print might have been like. This version was shown at the New York Film Festival on October 29, 1989.
The film was very costly and not terribly successful at the time; Griffith chose to reedit the individual stories into shorts and also release them separately.
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Movie Lover: Patrick from
Brick, NJ -- May, 10, 2005
It's hard to look back at a movie like this and judge how it looked to the original audience. Knowing that they didn't flock to see it, I can only guess that it may have been too ambitious of a work for it's time. Mixing four stories into one movie, going back and forth from one story line to another throughout, may have been too much of a strain on the movie-goers of 1915. I know it was too much for me. I had a similar difficulty with "Pulp Fiction", which in retrospect looks like a variation on the theme. At least I now know where the idea came from.
A documentary film done in 1975 called "The Moving Picture Boys In the Great War" points to "Intolerance" as an example of the American movie industry's support for the pacifist policies of the Wilson Administration prior to April 1917. But that support quickly gave way to war enthusiasm once war was declared on Germany. It's hard for me to tell if "Intolerance" was truly cutting edge, or just a clever way of trying to play to the tastes of the times.
ONE OF THE GREATEST FILMS OF THE SILENT ERA
Movie Lover: jOHN cRAWFORD from
FORT WAYNE INDIANA -- August, 10, 2004
INTOLERANCE IS ONE OF THE GREATEST ACHEIVEMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF THE SILENT CINIMA. I HAVE ONLY ONE COMPLAINT OF THE ALPHA VIDEO VERSION OF THIS FILE: THE PICTURE QUAILTY IS NOT AS GOOD AS THE HIGHER PRICED VERSION, BUT ALL IN ALL IT IS A TRUE CLASSIC AND I WOULD LIKE TO THANK ALPHA VIDEO FOR MAKING THESE CLASSICS AVAILABLE AT AN AFFORDABLE PRICE, AND I HOPE THEY WILL BE ADDING MORE TITLES FROM THE SILENT ERA IN THE FUTURE.
The Film That Started It All
Movie Lover: Wayne S from
Knoxville, TN US -- May, 6, 2004
What can I say about DW Griffith? He was a genius and truly a great movie maker. This silent epic weaves 4 stories together under the theme of mankind's inhumanity to man -- and Griffith isn't afraid to let you know what he thinks. Ignore the bigotry of his personal beliefs, the film is a treasury of every type of movie making basics from the long crane shots to the close up. Imagine making Cinema in 1916 when no one has ever done it! Invest the few bucks and put this in your library.
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