(Review originally written at 19 February 2007)

In the days of revolutionized film-making its not that easy to be totally impressed by movies anymore. This movie however blew me away and I was surprised by its scale and storytelling.

I of course already knew that D.W. Griffith was a great storyteller, that with his storytelling techniques was decades ahead of its time but his storytelling for this movie was truly unique. It follows multiple plot lines, set in entirely different time periods. It in a way makes this movie 4 in 1. The movie constantly switches back and forth between the different plot lines.

It's definitely true that the movie focuses more on the one plot line than the others. The Judea and the Paris story are for instance not featured as much in the movie as the Babylon and the 'modern' America story. It doesn't make every element in the movie work out as powerful or even understandable. It's of course to fully understand and follow the movie, since it features so many characters, plots and all of that without the use of sound. Nevertheless, I really shouldn't be too harsh on the story since its simply brilliantly written and constructed into the movie. Especially the spectacular and hectic last 40 minutes or so, in which every story reaches its conclusion and climax, work out fantastic.

But it was not only the story and storytelling that surprised me but also most definitely the entire scale of the movie. This movie is epic! It's huge! The sets are amazing (especially the Babylon ones) and most of the movie is filmed without the use of miniatures or other filming techniques. This movie is pure and about 90% of it is real. Yeah sure, you can make a movie now days with armies of hundred-thousands of CG soldiers battling each other but it just can't beat the real thing. Especially the charge on Babylon is huge and impressive and also surprisingly spectacular, even this present day, with the use of siege weapons and elephants. Also the battle at the end of the movie is massive with literally hundreds of extra's involved. Really impressive looking stuff, like I said before, you just can't beat the real thing!

Not only the sets look impressive but also the costumes and camera-work, with the use of some early close-ups.

It's interesting to see the parallels between the different stories. I think it was D.W. Griffith's intention to show how little has actually changed over the centuries and in that way provoke the viewer. Key element in the movie is the struggle of love and the intolerance of some people, also of course mainly regarding love. The 4 stories are brilliantly tied together through those themes.

There are a couple of interesting characters in the movie that are all put down well into the movie and its story. Obviously most of the actors are overacting, like you could expect from a movie from the 1910's. The movie features yet again a lot of D.W. Griffith's 'regulars', with of course Mae Marsh and Lillian Gish as the most notable ones, even though they don't really play the biggest roles of the movie.

An epic movie of grand proportions with some great storytelling.


About Frank Veenstra

Watches movies...writes about them...and that's it for now.
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