Tolerance Film Festival
Director: D.W. Griffith
Silent movie, USA, 1916
Restored version by Kevin Brownlow and David Gill (1989), musical score by Carl Davis
With an introduction by Dr Alexander Schwarz (film historian and curator, Munich) on the significance, background and contemporary relevance of the film
What a spectacle! Neither Hollywood nor the whole world had ever seen a film on such a grand scale. David Wark Griffith’s intention was to create the biggest movie ever made to date. As independent producer and director he spent his own fortune for it, had built hectares of buildings and props and directed literally tens of thousands of extras on the set. It was a project dear to his heart and convictions, a social and historical vision. He intended to let mankind look into the mirror. He wanted indeed to convince and move America and all mankind, to implement more peace, humanity and empathy, to switch to human dignity, tolerance, justice and progress, to refrain from violence, hatred, oppression, death sentence, imperialism, persecution, warfare – and to value love and understanding.
Griffith left the just emerging principles of classical Hollywood dramaturgy behind and created a complex and almost philosophical film. Not only was he a pioneer of film art and technology – the “father of the American film”. His incessant strife for new principles and opportunities of film language revolutionized cinematic treatment of space, movement, rhythm, lighting, symbols, text (in intertitles) and color (by tinting). He was clearly one of the greatest writers and directors of all time. And „Intolerance“ became his biggest project ever.
Four cleverly intertwined plots were meticulously researched and reconstructed, as well as shot on the grandest of scales, moving masses of extras. Those four stories were: “modern” contemporary America, biblical Judea in 1st century A.D., the massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Night in 16th century France and Babylon during the Persian siege in the 6th century B.C.
But Griffith used them just as examples to demonstrate the universal threat posed by capitalistic greed, religious fanaticism and imperialist ambition. His appeal to use the power of the individual that can persist even in the darkest of times was shot during World War I but turned out to be both groundbreaking and timeless.
“Intolerance is that thing in all our natures which causes us to condemn all those who believe differently from ourselves. It has been the same in all ages; as far back as history goes, intolerance has been the cause of more bloodshed than all other influences combined. How true is it that intolerance ever cloaks itself in the garb of righteousness that it may the more easily impose on the minds of men.
” (Opening subtitles of the film, written by D.W. Griffith: lines from “The Book of Intolerance”)
Dr. Alexander Schwarz (Munich)
studied film and literature, was executive producer at a German TV channel, helped to establish Discovery Channel in the German language market and headed MarComms and Promotions as Creative Director at Discovery Networks Europe in London. In 2004, he founded his own project development company "Tolle Idee!“. He works as a curator and author of film programs, lectures and exhibitions, develops cross-media concepts and creates archive based TV documentaries. Currently he is also teaching film history at the University of Basel, Switzerland, and at various institutes in Germany.
Watch the trailer of “Intolerance”