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The Birth of a Nation (The Masters of Cinema Series) [Blu-ray]
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SYNOPSIS One of the most artistically significant and controversial motion pictures ever made, D. W. Griffith ' s silent epic The Birth of a Nation was a massive commercial success at the time of its release, owing to its dynamic storytelling and its breakthrough developments in cinema language that have become common traits of practically every film that has since followed. However, the picture ' s legacy is one that continues to elicit outrage over its vulgar depictions of African - Americans and its deceptive historiography of the United States in the second half of the nineteenth century.
The Birth of a Nation begins depicting the amiable relationship between two families, Northern and Southern, and the way in which the impending Civil War intensifies the conflict of their worldviews. Following the end of the war and the assassination of President Lincoln, a lawless chaos courses throughout the Reconstruction South, and the Ku Klux Klan is formed to take on a rising black militia and impose a vengeful vigilante justice across their land and " birthright ".
It's a film that ' s deeply divisive even to the senses of a single viewer: images of painterly beauty in composition and tonal quality often exhibit a contemptuous, inflammatory coarseness with regard to subject matter; just as frequently, long tracts evince an innocent, terrifically lyrical grandeur. Griffith would attempt to make amends for the moral schism of this schizophrenic epic in his next film, Intolerance , but The Birth of a Nation cannot - and should not - remain unseen, or undiscussed: it is a great, and terrible, masterpiece. The Masters of Cinema Series releases Griffith ' s three - hour epic, including a series of the director's Civil War shorts, for the first time on Blu - ray in the UK.
SPECIAL BLU-RAY EDITION
- New 1080p presentation of the film from archival 35mm elements, in its original aspect ratio
- Music by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra in 2.0 stereo and DTS - HD Master Audio 5.1
- Short archival introductions to the film by D. W. Griffith and Walter Huston
- Newly rediscovered original intermission sequence and 1930 re - release title sequence
- Seven Civil War shorts directed by Griffith: In the Border States (1910); The House with Closed Shutters (1910); The Fugitive (1910); His Trust (1910); His Trust Fulfilled (1910); Swords and Hearts (1911); and The Battle (1911).
- A lengthy booklet with writing about the film, rare archival imagery, and more.
" It is an unavoidable fact of American movie history, and must be dealt with " --Roger Ebert
" Birth of a Nation is a great epoch in picture making " --Variety
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The beginning of the film deals with life in the old South, and much like Gone With The Wind, showed nothing of the harsh cruelty of slavery. However, this film does not bare the title 'Based on a true story' and so, as with the racist struggle at the end, with a little education, this may be judged purely in terms of cinematography. .. I simply saw it through Griffith's eyes, and could not help but give a broad smile many times at the wonderful atmosphere that the film created.
The film centres mainly around the Northern Stonemans and the Southern Camerons, and the relationship between them. The civil war presents some spectacular scenes, including the superb sequence where the eldest Cameron boy rushes forward to the front line towards the guns and rescues the Confederate flag. The horrors and tragedies of war are shocking, but spectacular. What follows is the heartbreak of loss, the surrender of General Lee, the beginning of the revenge that plagues the characters throughout the rest of the film and finally, April 14th 1865. Ford's Theatre is recreated, and one of history's greatest men is gunned down in a tragic scene.
The heroin of the film is a Northerner, played by the ravishingly beautiful Lillian Gish. Her love for the founder of the Ku Klux Klan creates an interesting situation. She condemns her lover but forgives him when the villain of the film, a mulatto named Syrus Lynch tries to force her into marriage and is rescued by our 'heroes' in white hoods. The eldest son of the Camerons founds the Ku Klux Klan, while the head of the Stonemans intends to crush the Southern whites by giving all the power to the blacks.
The film was condemned by blacks and white liberals and not without cause. Syrus Lynch, is given power after the end of the war and becomes Governor of South Carolina. He stands as a symbol for what will happen if the two races were to mix. Another of the bad guys is Gus, who harasses a white girl until she commits suicide to protect her honour. For the rest of the film, the blacks act as the villains while the Ku Klux Klan saves society and restores peace and justice to the land. It's a bit hard to take,.... I console myself by remembering that this film was made in unsympathetic times. It is advisable to read what really happened before seeing this film, but for those glorious 190 minutes, simply take this piece of cinema at face value and you will be the better for it.
This film changed history and movie history, as the Ku Klux Klan rose again in response to it, and the days of the one reeler films came to a close. There have been other films of this quality, but they can be counted on one hand. The Birth of A Nation is an utter masterpiece with no faults other than its political incorrectness. bfi films have painstakingly restored this masterpiece to its full, rich and deserved glory and the result is a superb and delightfully entertaining work of pure genius... It has not aged at all and I cannot recommend it enough. Buy it now!
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The film claims the US became a disunion when black people were brought over here....Read more