By Miguel Cruz
The movie is an interesting change of pace from modern cinema. It’s a film from 1915 when the art of making movies wasn’t as polished. The result is a different experience because of the lack of dialogue. Cheery background music is played throughout the film to keep it from being monotonous. The lack of dialogue is replaced with flashcards to help viewers understand what is going on.
The background music adds to the comedy of the movie by playing the right tunes during certain segments. Simplistically made the movie has no color because of the technology at that time. This film was the first full-length movie made, and it took broad strokes being three hours long. They adjusted the price to make up for it.
It was interesting to learn about the intrigue of the film industry back then. D. W. Griffith was being harassed by capitalists because his three-hour movie would cut into their profits. The rich capitalists would charge about five cents a viewing for a few minutes. Griffith’s film was 33 cents for three hours. This would disrupt the capitalist’s well-oiled film machine. Sadly, that progress is always under attack. Mercifully, Griffith was able to shoot the movie.
The movie itself is interesting because it hides its true intent during the first half of the movie. From the beginning, the audience is led to believe that the movie is about the American Civil War. It does show the civil war for the first half of the film.
It’s interesting to note that the movie itself takes the perspective of the South who was in favor of keeping slavery. They humanized and made the slave owners look like regular people with families and hopes and dreams. Even though the same people fought to keep an oppressive system in place, the audience can sympathize with them because of the great pains taken to humanize them.
We follow a family with a few daughters and three sons. The three sons fight in the war, but only one son survives. The last surviving son was supposed to be hanged, but his family begged Abraham Lincoln for help and were shown mercy.
I love how American politics was portrayed with mercy in this movie. Granted, one wonders if that mercy would come back to hurt them later.
The son was shown mercy was portrayed as a racist and refused to shake a colored man’s hand. One day the surviving son got the idea of starting the KKK from a white sheet. Then his sister dies from an attempted rape of a colored person.
It gives the origins of the KKK a sympathetic light. I felt horrible with the portrayal of the KKK in a humanized way considering all the suffering they have cost over the decades. I would have wanted to see their white robes in color because it had designs I could not make out. The colored folk that liked the KKK are portrayed as the more civilized of their kind.
The movie then shows that when colored people get their freedom, they would use it irresponsibly. They portrayed black people as rapists and violent criminals. One colored man tried to rape the main character’s sister, and another killed a white man.
It is just propaganda for the KKK to portray them as heroes who stopped the invasion of the colored people. The KKK is shown as a righteous army to protect white people. They drove the colored people back and reclaimed the city. The movie portrays them as heroes.
The whole movie was an ad for the KKK. It was used as propaganda to get people to like them and to sign up.