Thanksgiving special: D.W. Griffith’s ‘Intolerance: Love’s Struggle Through the Ages’
“Intolerance: Love’s Struggle Through the Ages” is D.W. Griffith’s very, very expensive follow up to his highly successful (and racist) “Birth of a Nation,” issued in the midst of World War I. Some say, when costs are adjusted for inflation, it remains the most expensive movie yet made.
And yet “Intolerance” was deemed a box office flop — but that shouldn’t dissuade anyone now, as it’s highly entertaining. (The version embedded below is a non-tinted version, which makes some of the details clearer than in the tinted prints. In other versions, different hues were overlaid to differentiate the epochs depicted.)
Griffith used “Intolerance” in an attempt to demonstrate his newly-enlightened state after the deserved anger and widespread protests against the over-the-top racism and glorification of the Ku Klux Klan in “Birth of a Nation.” But the movie (and Griffith) come off as a bit pompous, to say the least — especially when his complete lack tolerance shines through.
But his occasionally un-self-aware pontificating aside, the movie is all but a vehicle to demonstrate his mastery of cinematography. His French Huguenot and New Testament sections take something of a back seat to his modern-day tale and the quite overwhelming spectacle of the Babylonian story — which is jaw-dropping on its own. Though all the vignettes are set around Griffith’s preachy theme (and all lead to varied levels of violence), once given a chance, the becomes thrilling and touching by its end, which features a depiction of world Apocalypse.