Jump to content
ūüĒí The Earwolf Forums are closed Read more... √ó
grudlian.

Intolerance: Love's Struggle Throughout The Ages

Intolerance: Love's Struggle Throughout The Ages  

7 members have voted

This poll is closed to new votes
  1. 1. Does this belong on the AFI list?

    • Yes
      5
    • No
      2

  • Please sign in or register to vote in this poll.
  • Poll closed on 05/08/20 at 07:00 AM

Recommended Posts

Paul & Amy gawk at 1916's D.W. Griffith silent spectacle Intolerance! They praise the eternally cool Mountain Girl, ask if Griffith was the original 'troll' director, and marvel at the ambition on display in the oldest film on the AFI list. Plus: Unpacking your thoughts on Yankee Doodle Dandy.

If you could kick just one film off the AFI list, which would it be? Call the Unspooled voicemail line at 747-666-5824 with your answer! Follow us on Twitter @Unspooled, get more info at unspooledpod.comand don’t forget to rate, review & subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts. Also check out our live Spool Party episodes on youtube.com/earwolf! Photo credit: Kim Troxall

Share this post


Link to post

Here is the set from Intolerance as featured in LA Noire. If the link doesn't work, just go to about 42:45 in the video. I remember playing this when it came out coincidentally shortly after seeing this movie. It was a really interesting part in a kind of weird game.

 

Share this post


Link to post

It's a close call for me, though I will say that if you're streaming the film online, DO NOT watch the version that comes free with Amazon Prime. You'll notice that the listing claims that their version is 3 hrs, 17 mins, but if you actually watch the film you'll find it's more like 2 hrs. I don't think any scenes or plot were left out, so that means the footage is running VERY fast. I first watched this movie there and found it very hard to follow. Then someone on the Facebook group pointed out that the version up on Kanopy is much better, so I rewatched the film there and indeed it is a big improvement. It actually runs the proper length, which gives the scenes room to breathe, and the picture quality and musical score are better too.

So based on the Kanopy version, I found Intolerance very entertaining. Some of the reactionary politics* are still bothersome, but when the film is presented well you can see how strong Griffith's filmmaking technique is. That said, does it belong on the list? I think you can make an argument that if you're talking about cultural and technical influence it's really Birth of a Nation that belongs, even despite the horrible racist messaging. If you're just going off artistic quality, Intolerance is (IMO) a strong candidate but not clearly necessary. I ultimately voted yes but it's a borderline call.

*I think the way Griffith frames the motives of the women reformers in the modern section is almost laughably misogynistic, but historical context is helpful here: this was a time when progressive religious women's groups like this were pushing for prohibition of alcohol, resulting in the passage of the 18th Amendment at the end of the decade. Given the disastrous results of Prohibition you could say Griffith does have a point here in criticizing these groups, and it is useful to warn hat socially progressive movements can go too far. That said, the idea that all of it was based on women getting old and bored because they were no longer attractive to men is, uh, pretty wrong-headed. And then of course the movie also contains a great character like the Mountain Girl! People are complicated.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
7 minutes ago, sycasey 2.0 said:

It's a close call for me, though I will say that if you're streaming the film online, DO NOT watch the version that comes free with Amazon Prime. You'll notice that the listing claims that their version is 3 hrs, 17 mins, but if you actually watch the film you'll find it's more like 2 hrs. I don't think any scenes or plot were left out, so that means the footage is running VERY fast. I first watched this movie there and found it very hard to follow. Then someone on the Facebook group pointed out that the version up on Kanopy is much better, so I rewatched the film there and indeed it is a big improvement. It actually runs the proper length, which gives the scenes room to breathe, and the picture quality and musical score are better too.

So based on the Kanopy version, I found Intolerance very entertaining. Some of the reactionary politics* are still bothersome, but when the film is presented well you can see how strong Griffith's filmmaking technique is. That said, does it belong on the list? I think you can make an argument that if you're talking about cultural and technical influence it's really Birth of a Nation that belongs, even despite the horrible racist messaging. If you're just going off artistic quality, Intolerance is (IMO) a strong candidate but not clearly necessary. I ultimately voted yes but it's a borderline call.

*I think the way Griffith frames the motives of the women reformers in the modern section is almost laughably misogynistic, but historical context is helpful here: this was a time when progressive religious women's groups like this were pushing for prohibition of alcohol, resulting in the passage of the 18th Amendment at the end of the decade. Given the disastrous results of Prohibition you could say Griffith does have a point here in criticizing these groups, and it is useful to warn hat socially progressive movements can go too far. That said, the idea that all of it was based on women getting old and bored because they were no longer attractive to men is, uh, pretty wrong-headed. And then of course the movie also contains a great character like the Mountain Girl! People are complicated.

Thank you for this information! I noticed the discrepancy between the listing and actual runtime on Prime a few weeks ago and didn't watch it. Definitely going to watch on Kanopy before listening to the podcast episode!

Share this post


Link to post

I watched the version on the Internet Archive; it was the 2 h 57 m one, with no music or anything.

I loved it. I want to watch it again, taking my time, and focusing on the details of the narrative.

But anyway, it's so huge and awesome and such a spectacle, I don't see how this could be left off the list. It was 1916! As I said in my Letterboxd, Arrival of a Train - that famous 50-second film of a train arriving in a station that baffled audiences - came out in 1896. That's what Griffith was competing against here. Imagine a world where everyone's making TikTok videos and then basically someone drops like 2001 on them.

I know the story of what triggered Griffith to make this. But I don't feel much of that in the stories and final product. It's not all "everyone should tolerate racism!" in any way. So for me, that's really easy to get past in a way I wouldn't for Birth. If anything here, the "love and intolerance battle" message is laughingly simplistic. But then, if you're going to tell a story interweaving four epics in a way nobody had ever experienced before, a simple message probably is necessary.

So yea, I'm with Amy here - I love this film. And I find its accomplishment and existence beyond comprehension for what I know about film from back then. I am a little in awe of it.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post

I voted no, but I'm on the fence.  I see it a lot like the argument over Gone With the Wind, in which terrible messaging is wrapped up in a very well-made movie.  Now, the messaging in Intolerance isn't as offensive as in Gone With the Wind or Birth of a Nation, but I think the politics are murky, and it's all tied together with such pretension.  So many of the title cards just made me cringe, like an author who claims he's in the middle of writing the Great American Novel.  There's labor there to make it capital-I Important, and that left a bad taste in my mouth.

But I also get how absurdly groundbreaking this film is from an artistic standpoint, so I get why people would want it on the list.  My perception was that its inclusion on the 2007 list was just to check a box to make sure D.W. Griffith had a film on there after the inclusion of Birth of a Nation possibly drew criticism in 1998.  But I think Amy did a good job in the podcast making the argument that the mistake was missing Intolerance in 1998 in the first place.  But while I see the merits, I really did not care about anything in the film except the modern story and Mountain Girl.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post

I had the same thoughts as Amy on how while Birth of a Nation may have done many things earlier, Intolerance did them on a higher level. I was surprised nobody compared the multiple timelines to a Christopher Nolan movie.

Intolerance is typically thought of as Griffith's reply to critics of Birth of a Nation, so it's worth noting other films spawned in response, which given the times also commented on the first World War. "The Birth of a Race" (produced by an aide to Booker T. Washington) was intended as a response to Nation, showing a more noble side to the history of African people, to which is oddly appended a modern story about two German-American brothers fighting on opposite sides of the war in Europe. Thomas Dixon Jr, author of the novels which had been adapted into Birth of a Nation, wrote another novel, "The Fall of a Nation", whose adaptation he personally directed as arguably the first feature film sequel. The film is now lost, but it depicts a future in which Germans trick the U.S into disarming, resulting in a German invasion which is eventually defeated by a militarist southern Congressman and the sufragette who had earlier opposed said militarist. I suppose that's a more common portrayal of a modern female performer than is found in "Intolerance". Major industrialists still come in for critique, as Henry Ford (along with Williams Jenning Bryan) appears in parody form to be mocked for his pacifism. The book it's based on is even more forgotten, but is available on Gutenberg.

 

As for how sincere Griffith was, Walter Huston interviewed him here for the 1930 re-release of Birth of a Nation, and Griffith notes that he was raised in the south as the son of a Confederate officer, and the film was "true" as he understood it.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post

 

I tried rewatching this one for the podcast, but it was still hard to do in one setting. I had to space it out over three days. Thanks, D.W. Jeez.  

Just to share my experience in case anyone wants to try it out -- to make silent movies more watchable, I usually do two things.

One-- I change the frame rate to slightly slower than 100%, like .9 or .8. Often, this smooths the action to a more natural degree. Not all silent movies are the same or transferred the same to modern video, but very often the frame rate for early movies is "off" from the regular video rate we are used to. It takes some playing sometimes to find the right fit, but it's so much more pleasant to watch. 

Second, I always have the habit of playing my own soundtrack over silent movies. My rationale being-- they often used then-contemporary music to accompany the visuals, so why can't I do the same?  It *always* engages me much more into the movie; somehow I'm able to pay attention better. Sometimes I deliberately create a playlist of a variety/range of music instrumentals, electronica, etc. This time, I just set a random Danny Elfman soundtrack mix in the background. It was eerie how much of it actually matched without me ever having to adjust it. I especially liked the Mars Attacks layered onto the celebration in Babylon, right after the theme from Spider-Man was over the seige by Cyrus. Sometimes is was a bit too surreal/melodramatic, like Beetlejuice's theme over the racecar versus train moment. The last few minutes of the film was set to Sally's theme from Nightmare Before Christmas, which was suspenceful and poignant when needed at the saved hanging, and mournful and sad over the scenes of war. And the song ended right as "The End" played. Synchronistic!  

 

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post

×