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The Birth of a Nation and Greed

Uploaded by art80283 on Nov 06, 1999

The progress of the film industry was remarkably fast in the first quarter of this century. I have chosen two films namely The Birth of a Nation (1915) and Greed (1924) for comparison and contrast to show how much the industry had evolved within the short span of nine years. These two films are chosen for the short time span between them. This short time span will enable us to evaluate the development of the film industry in terms of the psychological build-up of the plot and the characters, cinematic qualities and the gradual acceptance of ironies in the films on the part of the American audience. D.W Griffith's The Birth of a Nation and Erich Von Stroheim's Greed are both films adapted from novels written by Thomas Dixon and Frank Norris respectively. However one of the differences between these two films lies in the human characters portrayed. In The Birth of a Nation, the characters are portrayed as either wholly good or evil. One could easily distinguish between the heroes and villains in the film. For example, the hero in the film, Ben Stoneman is portrayed as courageous, loving and righteous as opposed to the villains Lynch (the false reformer) and Gus (the black soldier), who are portrayed as scheming and lustful. This lopsided depiction of human nature is not realistic, as humans cannot be either wholly good or wholly evil. This is an example of idealism with clear influences from Pollyanna stories, which was well accepted by the audience then. Thus a realistic depiction of humans should be that of portraying their strengths and weaknesses. The characters in Von Stroheim's Greed, on the other hand, possess this practical depiction of humans. In this film the characters are a real portrayal of real human beings with imperfections and weaknesses. McTeague for instance, is portrayed as kind and gentle towards animals yet violent by nature. Marcus, McTeague's friend and later his foe, is portrayed as a humorous, witty but at the same time scheming and harbors grudges against McTeague. Comparing these characters to the ones in The Birth of a Nation, clearly the characters in Greed are much more realistic, painting a true picture of the complexity of human nature. It is also a break from the then prevailing norm in Hollywood's films of showing only one-sided nature of the characters, which is either wholly good or wholly bad. In addition to...

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Uploaded by:   art80283

Date:   11/06/1999

Category:   Film

Length:   6 pages (1,287 words)

Views:   1726

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