(Review originally written at 16 March 2007)

Basiscly in essence this movie is a very original and pleasant take on the French revolution, when the monarchy got replaced by the republic. The story is told through the viewpoint of two sister, of which one is also blind, who get separated, during the events that lead up to the eventual French revolution and its aftermath. It's a great and original way to tell the story, without ever becoming too 'historical', with that I'm meaning that it doesn't turn into a dull history-class lesson.

It's an amazing looking and crafted costume drama that above all is also really well told. Leave it up to D.W. Griffith to tell a grand epic story. Of course the movie is mostly melodramatic, like basically every other genre movie from the same time period. And melodramatic or not, the movie and its emotions work really well. It makes this a really effective movie to watch, though it's definitely not only just drama but the movie in its overall style is quite light (especially compared to other D.W. Griffith movies) and even leaves room for plenty of humor, despite it's heavy and dramatic undertone.

D.W. Griffith movies have always contained humor, mostly of the small and subtle sort, that often worked refreshing from its more heavy and dramatic elements. This movie is no exception and even has a comical relief in it, in the form of Creighton Hale, as the servant Chevalier de Vaudrey. The movie actually features quite a lot slapstick humor, especially in its second halve. It proofs that D.W. Griffith had a great sense for timing.

The movie is filled with many characters and also features many developing plot lines. The movie is however definitely not as tiresome and overlong as with other D.W. Griffith movies sometimes is the case. This movie knows to keep your interested because of its fantastic story and the well it's told and made to look in the eventual end movie. The movie is also not as hard to follow as with many other silent movies often is the case. I think this is also due to the more 'light' way of storytelling. It's obvious that the movie makers wanted to entertain its viewers.

The many characters are being played by some fine actors, although of course their performances are definitely over-the-top all by todays standards. The real life sisters Lillian and Dorothy Gish play also the two sisters in this movie, in their last movie role together. Lillian is of course the best known of the two, definitely thanks to D.W. Griffith's other movies but Dorothy in this movie shows that she is just as talented. The two also have a really great chemistry together on the screen which definitely helps the movie and its story. Joseph Schildkraut plays a great. pretty looking, noble and heroic character. But especially great in this movie are the 'villains'. The movie has a wide variety of villainous characters, from many different classes. The aristocratic villains are great, mainly also because of their looks and style of acting but also the characters from the lower classes such as Jacques-Forget-Not and the vile Mother Frochard are great. All of the characters are really powerful and the movie manages to give each of them a defining personality.

The movie gives a good and detailed look into the Parisian aristocratic lifestyle of the 18th century. It also perfectly explains how and why the French revolution occurred, without ever loosing its main focus on the dramatic story lines of the two sisters, who in essence don't really have anything to do with the revolution. They're just at the wrong place and the wrong time with the wrong people. The French revolution merely serves as a backdrop for the movie.

The movie has a great look, with impressive looking sets and especially costumes. You can definitely describe this movie as a costume-drama in my opinion. There also are some great mass sequences and battles, all of course part of the D.W. Griffith trademark style of film-making.

The race against the clock sort of ending is totally fantastic. It's tense and extremely well build up and executed. The eventual end of the movie is also really great, in which everything reach a satisfying conclusion. It suits the genre and especially this movie, really well. The movie left me with a great happy feeling and the overall movie made a big impression on me.

Not even D.W. Griffith's best (that really says something about his other movies!) but certainly his most pleasant to watch- and entertaining one.


About Frank Veenstra

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