Two young girls are orphaned prior to the French Revolution. They grow up in poverty, but when Louise (Dorothy Gish) is stricken blind by an unknown disease, her sister, Henriette (Lillian Gish), takes her to Paris in the hopes of finding a doctor to cure her. While there, a nobleman sees Henriette’s beauty and promptly kidnaps her, leaving blind Louise all alone to fend for herself.
This film was a huge financial flop when it first released. Truthfully, I can see why. DW Griffith made this film with the same touch and technique as he did all his films before, but it feels like he isn’t really bringing anything new to the silver screen. His previous films, Intolerance, Broken Blossoms, even Birth of a Nation, despite its social context, all were made with passion and done with a certain grace I never even knew could exist in film during the silent era. Here though, it feels like “just another DW Griffith movie.” Not that he’s phoning it in, but that the style is too much like his previous work and I just can’t help thinking “I’ve seen all this before,” throughout the movie.
There are some scenes throughout the film that made me think, “wait, Griffith should know not to do that.” In this case, it’s something I know I’ve said previously and that’s if you’re going to show something in a film, you don’t have to tell it (or vice versa). Never show AND tell. For example, in this film early on, an upperclassman is walking through a crowd, then a intertitle comes on and says something like “This man walks through a crowd.” We were already watching him walk through a crowd. We don’t need to read it on screen.
Which brings me to yet another complaint, editing! This film badly needed to be cut down. The crowd scene I mentioned above was almost entirely unnecessary. The first rule of rewriting is “eliminate unnecessary scenes” and something tells me this two and a half hour runtime could have easily been cut down to 1 hour 30 minutes without taking anything away from the story itself.
Decent music though.
Why you should watch it before you die: Well, if you’re a huge Griffith fan I would say totally check it out and see what you think. Otherwise, he has better entries than this and quite a few of those are on this list already. I would say you can easily pass on this film.
+6: Better than average
+1: Good score
-1: Griffith is too derivative of his other work
-1: Never, ever, show AND tell, filmmakers
-1: Too many unnecessary scenes