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The Birth of a Nation
dir. David Wark Griffith / USA 1915 / 125’
subtitles: Polish


Lillian Gish, Mae Marsh, Miriam Cooper, Henry B. Walthall, Walter Long, George Siegmann, Mary Alden, Robert Harron

Film description

The most acclaimed feature-film by D.W. Griffith, textbook father of feature films and codifier of cinguistic rules. The Birth of a Nation is an epic fresco of the Civil War and Reconstruction where America’s ordeals are represented through the story of two families on opposing sides of the conflict. From day one, the film evoked as much praise as controversy, for its formal mastery and edge-of-your-seat pace but questionable motif and themes (especially from today’s point of view). However, neither its racist overtones nor simple sentimentalism take away from the film’s power, a fact both impressive and terrifying.

The Birth of a Nation is a distillation of the experience of Griffith and his contemporaries, making for a compendium of formal and technical devices of cinema’s initial two decades. Conscious use of editing, depth gradation, camera movement, toned-down acting, and last minute rescues – all these elements and many others successfully combine into a single narrative geared for the specific purpose of advancing the story. The feature film paradigm coalesces here; cinema begins telling stories, with no end in sight.

Grzegorz Kurek

Silent film with  live music by Tomasz Kirszling (trumpet) and Marcin Mazurek (piano)

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