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on 23 February 2017
Well worth the price. Very interesting particularly the 'making of'.
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on 2 December 2016
Cleaned up very well.
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on 17 February 2001
The first, and perhaps the greatest of the feature films, D.W. Griffith's wonderful and controversial film is a must have for anyone with any serious interest in cinema.
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!
58 people found this helpful
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on 23 August 2015
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, as gallant vigilantes and the liberated black slaves as uncouth and uncivilised.

The passing of a century after the first release allows for an appreciation of the film's many achievements within a then nascent art form. D.W. Griffith was a very early pioneer of the three hour epic, the longshot, the close-up and the manipulation of large crowds of extras although the use of a subdued red tint during the lengthy battle sequences is of questionable value. Griffiths was anxious that his film should be remembered for as near as possible realistic acting. He was most fortunate in his leading lady for the accomplished performer Lillian Gish was to eschew the extravagant attitudes often demanded by early silent films in order to express emotions, for a much less histrionic style. The actress succeeded in creating character within a hackneyed plot line concerned with the vicissitudes of two families once friends but finally divided by their political loyalties.

For the remained of his career Griffiths was to cling to the fiction that his depictions of black violence was based in fact. He was in fact greatly influenced by The Clansman a novel penned by the arch segregationist Thomas Dixon a supreme advocate of The Lost Cause a credo dedicated to the re-establishment of a ruling white elite with absolute power over a subservient black labour force. Here the foremost enemy was the policy of Reconstruction instituted, in the immediate aftermath of the civil war, with the worthy but ultimately doomed ambition to provide the liberated slaves not only with the vote but also with a share of political power. The final and inevitable defeat of Reconstruction, aided in no small way by the Klan, was The major achievement of The Lost Cause. A vivid example of the demands of segregation is provided by the film for although Griffiths managed to employ black actors as extras all black speaking parts had to be performed by white actors. Much criticised over the years the blacking-up is both seriously unconvincing and insulting.

Two books are of particular interest. Eric Foner's "Reconstruction" is still rightly regarded as the master work on this particular subject. In his masterly analysis "The Fiery Cross" Wyn Craig wade includes a full chapter on the links between the Klan and The Birth of a Nation. He draws attention to the considerable advance in Klan recruitment in the wake of the film's release.

2 people found this helpful
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 5 May 2015
As good a transfer as you can expect for a film over 100 years old. It is fascinating even if it leaves a rather unpleasant taste in the mouth. I suspect this is only really to be enjoyed by those fascinated by early cinema. The extras are very relevant and the notes interesting. The blu ray delivers as well as one could expect in the circumstances.
4 people found this helpful
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on 23 February 2013
Great piece of history. Told about it by a friend at work. Loved the extras on the DVD.
Why more words required?
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on 23 September 2013
Amilestone ,and a masterwork in Movies.
loved the Movie,I wish they would a made a Version today
loved it ok
2 people found this helpful
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on 27 November 2015
For those wondering about the quality of the restoration of this film: get ready to be amazed! This blu-ray edition of Birth of a nation has stunning video and a gorgeous symphonic score. I bought the MoC-edition of the film in 2013, and I liked it very much, but there really is no comparison. This stunning BFI / Photoplay restauration was made from an extremely good tinted print from 1921. Buy with extreme confidence! The extra's are extensive and very informative.
26 people found this helpful
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on 18 March 2015
Always wanted to see this again, last time some 50yrs ago at the NFT. Well worth the wait.
2 people found this helpful
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on 6 September 2017
This is clearly the most beautiful print of this remarkable, albeit notorious, cinematic effort that I have ever seen. The soundtrack is suitably majestic and acts to smooth the jagged edges of the fast-paced editing style that was still being developed. The supplemental materials are interesting and eclectic. Americans will need a PAL formatted player to view this version for which this Blu-ray alone is worth the investment..
One person found this helpful
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