Quick recap: Two orphans (Louise and Henriette) find themselves caught in the middle of the French Revolution
Fun (?) fact: Griffith made parallels between the French Revolution and Bolshevism, which he feared might happen to America. The Bolsheviks, however, were inspired by the films and used certain techniques for their own propaganda.
My thoughts: Seeing as how I am one movie away from 200, it seems only fitting that I close out this second set of films with my final one from DW Griffith. We’ve had a long, strange ride, me and Griffith. I hated Birth of a Nation, mostly loved Intolerance, became inconsolable from Broken Blossoms and completely forgot that I saw Way Down East. And now, here we are with what might be the grandest of all films and definitely the one with most plot.
I feel it’s important to note that A Tale of Two Cities is non-ironically my favorite book of all time. I’m not really sure why I latched onto it back in high school- maybe because of the doomed love story ( the best kind of love story) or maybe because it is so beautifully written. Anyway, Griffith got his inspiration directly from the book, which is probably why I enjoyed this film so much. I’ve always wondered why no one has made a major motion picture of A Tale of Two Cities and now I know it’s because Griffith did a damn fine job. I can’t believe I just wrote that sentence. But really, even more than a doomed love story, I love that he used the two sisters to symbolize the different parts of the revolution and how complicated everything actually was.
In the film, Louise goes blind from an illness so her sister takes her to Paris to hopefully be cured. While there, Henriette is kidnapped by the aristocracy and her sister is forced to beg for food to survive. Both stories are equally tragic as Henriette escapes and subsequently falls in love with the nephew of the Countess while still hanging on to hope that her sister is alive. I was glued to the screen watching the revolution grow and finally explode into violence. It still blows my mind that something so epic could’ve been created in the early 1920s, when you consider how much work must have gone into it all. I began to get very impatient at the end, as Henriette is accused of helping the aristocracy and sentenced to the guillotine. I knew that there was no way she would actually die, and the drawing out of the final pardon seemed a little much. Still, it all ended well and I was left with the concept that maybe I love Griffith after all, even though he has subjected me to over 15 hours of silent movie footage.
Final review: 5/5. So long, Griffith
Up next: My Own Private Idaho