Monday, 11 May 2009

Theory of Film: The Birth of a Nation

I wanted to have a post dedicated to this film because of its cinematic innovations, such as camera angles like close-ups, fade-outs or color. Griffith thought about camera angles to tell better the story and not as if it were a play at the theater. On the FilmSite web you can read information about this movie. I just paste here the part related to Griffith techniques:

• the use of ornate title cards
• special use of subtitles graphically verbalizing imagery
• its own original musical score written for an orchestra
• the introduction of night photography (using magnesium flares)
• the use of outdoor natural landscapes as backgrounds
• the definitive usage of the still-shot
• elaborate costuming to achieve historical authenticity and accuracy
• many scenes innovatively filmed from many different and multiple angles
• the technique of the camera "iris" effect (expanding or contracting circular masks to either reveal and open up a scene, or close down and conceal a part of an image)
• the use of parallel action and editing in a sequence (Gus' attempted rape of Flora, and the KKK rescues of Elsie from Lynch and of Ben's sister Margaret)
• extensive use of color tinting for dramatic or psychological effect in sequences
• moving, traveling or "panning" camera tracking shots
• the effective use of total-screen close-ups to reveal intimate expressions
• beautifully crafted, intimate family exchanges
• the use of vignettes seen in "balloons" or "iris-shots" in one portion of a darkened screen
• the use of fade-outs and cameo-profiles (a medium closeup in front of a blurry background)
• the use of lap dissolves to blend or switch from one image to another
• high-angle shots and the abundant use of panoramic long shots
• the dramatization of history in a moving story - an example of an early spectacle or epic film with historical costuming and many historical references (e.g., Mathew Brady's Civil War photographs)
• impressive, splendidly-staged battle scenes with hundreds of extras (made to appear as thousands)
• extensive cross-cutting between two scenes to create a montage-effect and generate excitement and suspense (e.g., the scene of the gathering of the Klan)
• expert story-telling, with the cumulative building of the film to a dramatic climax

You can watch the film below these lines. Enjoy it!

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