The movie is directed by D. W. Griffith and one of the most triumphant and creatively advanced films of its generation that ignites riots, protests and divisiveness since its initial release. The story is all about the Civil War and its aftermath, as seen through the perspectives of two families. The Cameron’s from the south and the Stoneman’s hail from the north. When the Civil War started, the Stoneman family shed their lot with the Union while the Cameron family stays faithful to Dixie. After the war is over, Ben Cameron (Henry B.
Walthall) is anguished that his much-loved south is now under the command of blacks and carpetbagger. As a result, he created a secret vigilante group together with the individuals with same ideology as him they called the Ku Klux Klan. The death of his younger sister Flora (Mae Marsh) forces the Klan to wage war against the new Northern-inspired government and eventually brings back the order to the south. This is for the reason that Flora opted to face death rather than give up to the licentious advances of traitor slave Gus (Walter Long).
The film ends with the double honeymoon of the of Phil Stoneman (Elmer Clifton) with Margaret Cameron (Miriam Cooper) and Ben Cameron with Elsie Stoneman ( Lilian Gish) and the final picture shows masses repressed by a mythological god of hostilities finding harmony under the figure of Christ. Analysis It can be noted in the film that the centrality of the movie comes from the novel of Thomas Dixon Jr. , the writers of the movie. However, the director was certainly an inventive filmmaker and a movie industry transformer.
He promoted a myth that he was the main writer of his movies, structuring from film characters honed during his Biograph years and converting his films’ original sources so thoroughly that he was unencumbered by his received substance. Moreover, it can be clearly stated that he never worked from a shooting script and liked to give the impression that his films simply developed as he went along, first in his head, then on the set, and finally in the editing room.
Although the interpretation of Griffith differs in some ways to Dixon, in both novel and play, Dixon told the story of Reconstruction through the Cameron and Stoneman families. Ben Cameron and Elsie Stoneman, along with Phil Stoneman and Margaret Cameron in the novel, are the lovers that connect the story together. Although, they are divided by the catastrophe of the war and Northern misconceptions about the black character, their critical reconciliation embodies the reconciliation of the country, The Birth of a Nation.
Moreover, the director constructed the movie narrative into action towards the climaxes Dixon had distilled in his own theatrical adaptation. He gave essence to a silent play by a cinematic substitutions for the more compact and verbal dramatic exhibition. Griffith may have mined the matter in Dixon’s novel, and his systems of contrasting shots and editing. However, all the material and techniques have been used to bring visual substance to the story Dixon presented on the stage.
Thus, if Griffith was not quite the improvise cinematic inventor that he claimed, his knowledge of both theatre and film made him the perfect person to shape a new structure of drama rooted in the older stage form. The Birth of a Nation may be an adaptation rather than a largely original work, but in adapting the play, Griffith greatly extended the range and ambition of the cinema. An adaptation of this size was in itself a great leap of faith, and the result far out shadowed the conservative melodrama of the now largely forgotten unique film of all time.