Intolerance

(1916)

also known as: Love's Struggle Throughout the Ages

directed by D.W. Griffith, 198 minutes

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Under public pressure to top the epic sweep of his controversial BIRTH OF A NATION, D.W. Griffith upped his florid combination of gargantuan spectacle and heaving melodrama even further with INTOLERANCE, an epic that swooned through four separate eras in world history to demonstrate man's intolerance to other man. The fall of Babylon, the death of Christ, the slaughter of the Huguenots and a 20th century tale of urban gangsters each spark forth with innocents and villains, slaughter and love, disaster and rescue (with Lillian Gish tying together all the eras as the metaphorical "Mother" who "endlessly rocks the cradle, uniter of here and hereafter"). Not content with four mammoth stories, Griffith even intercuts between them, with a chariot race in Babylon woven within an automobile rescue in the big city. Epic in every sense of the word, INTOLERANCE certainly showcased Griffith's power over cinema and spectacle; it was also a box-office failure (in part due to its pacifist message as the U.S. was to enter the first world war) and returned Griffith for a time to a stream of far more modest programmers. - Jason Sanders
Synopsis
Four separate stories (the fall of Babylon, the death of Christ, the massacre of the Huguenots and a then-contemporary early 20th Century drama) are interwoven, building with enormous energy to a thrilling chase and finale. Through the juxtaposition of these well-known sagas, D.W. Griffith joyously makes clear his markedly deterministic view of history, namely that the suffering of innocents makes possible the salvation of the current generation, symbolized by the boy in the modern love story.

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