D.W. Griffith co-writes and directs this epic and controversial account of the American Civil War and its aftermath. It tells the story of two families, the pro-Union Stonemans from the North and the pro-Confederacy Camerons from the South, and the way in which they are both caught up in the turmoil which befalls a sleepy Deep South town when Northern Abolitionists threaten to outlaw the slave trade which has existed there for years. Things go from bad to worse when Ben Cameron (Henry B. Walthall)'s little sister dies at the hands of Gus (Walter Long), a black farmhand, and Ben dons a Ku Klux Klan mask both to avenge her death and to come to the rescue of his beloved girlfriend Elsie (Lillian Gish), who has been kidnapped by a corrupt mixed-race governor.
" 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 --This text refers to the Blu-ray edition.
Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
The story line covers the period of the American Civil War and is littered with huge amounts of racism; look out for the heroic intgerpretation of the Klu Klux Klan charging to the rescue to the "Ride of the Valcaries" in the latter part of the film.
However, the distastefull racist eliments of the film can be overcome when one looks at the film as a piece of cinematic history. The fact that this film was the first long feature film, the melodramatic style of acting, the use of sound track, editing and camera techniques make it a revolutionary film of it's age and well worth watching 88 years on.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
One of D.W. Griffith's great masterpieces of the silent movie era. There are others, but perhaps this one is the most spectacular.Published 1 month ago by artdealer
I'd bought three earlier SD and BD editions of this film over the past decade; I'll not be buying any more, because this one's picture quality cannot be improved upon. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Doctor John
Birth of a nation!! Long, silent, pertinent....Its all good and now better because the quality is greatly improved on Blu-Ray. This is a national treasure in cinematic history. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Lokii
An astonishing, fascinating film, which shows the prevalence of racism as recently as 1915.Published 4 months ago by Mr. Andrew M. Jarvis
Despite its controversial nature (kind of euphemism), great artistic endeavour.Published 5 months ago by Gezolin
Anyone who wishes to see how the visual vocabulary of epic film-making developed should study this film. Read morePublished 6 months ago by David H. Bebbington
Masterminded by a misguided genius The Birth of a Nation can still excite the passions due to the depiction of the Ku Klux Klan, in truth a headless monster of vicious enforcers,... Read morePublished 11 months ago by trottman
A striking masterpiece of cinematographic art, however controversial its ideas may bePublished 13 months ago by Dmitry Usenco