Movie Review: "The Birth of a Nation"


Movie "The Birth of a Nation"

"The Birth of a Nation" is a silent drama movie first released in 1915  and directed by  W. Griffith. It is wholly based on the renowned novel and also the play The Clansman, written by the famous Thomas Dixon. The movie was first released on the 8th of February, 1915. It was originally brought out in two major parts, separated by a known intermission. The movie greatly chronicles the existing relationship between families that live during the Civil War and in the Reconstruction-era of America. The assassination of the famous President Lincoln by the known John Wilkes is also dramatized.

The movie emerged as a great commercial success. However, its controversy sparkled series of emotions owing to the portrayal of many African-American men (who played as white actors yet in blackface) as less intelligent and also sexually aggressive towards the existing white women, and also exposing the Ku Klux Klan as a major heroic force. Widespread protests that were geared against the airing of "The Birth of a Nation" were witnessed and this led to it being banned in many cities.

This movie also got credit as a major event that greatly inspired the eventual formation of the renowned "second era" of Ku Klux Klan that was witnessed at Stone Mountain, in Georgia, in that same year. It was utilized as a recruiting mechanism for the Ku Klux Klan. It also became the first ever motion picture under the famous President Woodrow Wilson to be aired in the famous White House.

Part 1: America’s Pre-Civil War

The movie clearly follows two main juxtaposed families: one is the Northern Stonemans, which consists of the vocal abolitionist Congressman by the name Austin Stoneman, his two only sons, and his celebrated daughter Elsie; and the second, comprising of the Southern Camerons, which was a family that two daughters, by the names of Margaret and Flora, and also three naughty sons, with Ben being the most notable one.

The movie commences with the Stoneman brothers going out to visit the Camerons who lived at a South Carolina estate, which represented the American Old South. The renowned eldest of those two sons falls in deep love with Lady Margaret Cameron, while the notable Ben decides to idolize a fixed picture of a one – Elsie Stoneman. The young men resolved to join their given armies immediately as the Civil War begun.

A black militia evidently ransacks the large Camerons’ house. This does not go as to the formers’ expectations as Cameron’s women are granted solace by the Confederate soldiers who rout the attacking militia. Despite the soldiers rescuing some of their people the youngest of the Stonemans’ and also two members of the Cameron family brothers are killed in that war. Ben, the notable character, is severely wounded after his heroic charge at that time’s Siege of Petersburg, and eventually gains the renowned nickname of "the Little Colonel". His apt requirement for emergency treatment leads him to a hospital in the Northern part of the Nation where he eventually meets the beautiful Elsie Stoneman, a lady who was a nurse at that hospital. As Ben is recovering, he is informed that his hanging is in the waiting as he is deemed a guerrilla.

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When the famous Lincoln is eventually assassinated at the Ford's Theater, the post war policy that was always accorded in his respect goes on to expire with his death. Austin, one of the Stoneman’s sons and also other radical and respected congress men are clearly determined to wage war on the South by applying extremely harsh measures which turn out to be Griffith’s point of reference for the sought Reconstruction era.

Part 2: The Reconstruction

In 1871 Stoneman resolves to go South Carolina with his renowned mulatto prot?g? by the name Silas Lynch, in a bid to have a firsthand observation of the existing situation. The situation brings out the black soldiers who parade through all the streets of the state. The election time witnesses a lifetime occurrence where the whites are not given an easy time and the Blacks are the ones who stuff the existing ballot boxes and vote for their preferred candidates. Lynch eventually wins the Lieutenant Governor seat. The elections leave most of the electable positions occupied by blacks who dine and wine at their own wish with a lot of pride. They go on to pass laws that require all the white civilians to always salute any black officers and also allow marriages among mixed-races.

Ben resolves to form the Ku Klux Klan after getting a lot of inspiration from white children who were pretending as ghosts out to scare off and harm the black children. This leads to Elsie walking out of their relationship in line with the loyalty she held for her father.

Gus, who is a freedman and also soldier, decides to follow Flora Cameron as the lady goes to fetch some water. He clearly informs her that he wants to marry her. This incident frightens Flora who eventually flees into the nearby forest being pursued by Gus. The latter does not give up following Flora and she leaps to her eventual death after warning Gus against getting closer to her. Ben, Flora’s brother holds her dead sister after finding her body and vows to revenge on Gus. His army, the Klan, finally hunts down Gus, tries him and goes on to find him guilty as charged. The clansmen evidently leave Gus’s corpse on the notable Lynch's doorstep.

Dr. Cameron, on the other hand, who is Ben's father, is found with the Klan costume, after Lynch ordered to the arrest the Klan. This is a crime deemed punishable by death only. His son Ben and also their faithful servants try their best and rescue him, and they finally decide to flee. They are, however, very petrified, as their powers are superseded by the fact that they are pursued by a stronger force.

These events are followed by the next Election Day, where blacks find a long line of mounted and armed Klansmen who are waiting for them outside their homes. This forms a basis of intimidation that makes them avoid voting. The movie winds up with a double non-expected honeymoon of the notable Phil Stoneman with his love Margaret Cameron and also Ben Cameron with the beautiful Elsie Stoneman. A giant creature is shown to oppress the masses away at the end of the movie. This scene finally shifts to a given group who are out to find peace in Christ, mainly by attending the church.

The movie is a typical representation of the issues that were experienced in the earlier centuries, before the 1970’s. It depicts the scenarios that clearly brought out what conspired during the American Pre Civil War and during the Reconstruction. Through the major events that Ben was engulfed in the movie represents a typical American society. It shows how the Americans had the desire to have liberty and freedom of association and expression. The idea of intimidation during the Election Day is an issue that always affects the common society. The blacks were looked down upon but since got ground in line getting their place in society. The movie is a true depiction of how the revolution has taken place since the early 19th century from an uncivilized society to a more civilized one.

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