The Movie I Could Not Live Without and the
Movie I Could Not Live Through

         In History of the Cinema we watched many great films, but we also watched some boring films. My favorite film was Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Gravens, directed in 1922 by F. W. Murnau. This film was a classic; all of the horror movies of today have roots in this film. Nosferatu was based on Bram Stoker’s Dracula (written in 1897). Even though F. W. Murnau did not give Henrik Galeen credit, Murnau had done an excellent job directing this film. However, I have serious problems with D. W. Griffith’s 1915 The Birth of a Nation. Despite its technical advances, its racial content is quite disturbing.

         The purpose of horror films is to elevate the heart rate of the audience, keep them on the edge of their seats, and make sure they leave the theater talking about how good the film was. This film definitely does that. Max Schreck’s Nosferatu looked scary: he had crazy hair, long nasty fingernails, and eyes that seemed to pierce you at a glare. The intensity of the film escalated as the director made sure to shoot Nosferatu with dramatic camera angles and call for scary background music.

         This film was so valuable to me because I now know where horror films came from. I have a better appreciation for sound, color, and special effects in movies. If a film can be stripped of sound, stripped of all the color (except black and white of course), and stripped of all the computer-generated special effects and still be scary that film would be monumental. Nosferatu is a monumental film.

         I feel it is important for movie lovers to know where film came from, how far it has come, and realize how far it will go. I have realized that, by taking this class, I have a deeper understanding of film and a better appreciation for film, because I have seen how far we have come in the film industry.

         Not all films are worth of such praise though. The Birth of a Nation was one of the worst movies I had ever seen. It was not a bad film as far as camera angles, rendering, and sound goes; Griffith had done a good job with those aspects of cinema. There was not a lot of popping, and the scenes seemed to flow together rather well. The content of this film was way off line in my opinion.

         This film was an inaccurate portrayal of the sufferings of white people during the Civil War. This film had made it look as though it was the white people who were suffering. Griffith made it seem as though he wanted the viewers to feel sorry for white people during the Civil War. He made it look as though the African Americans were horrible people, beating on white people. In reality, the tables needed to be turned. White people were the ones beating on African Americans while they were slaves. I would have revolted and beat on the race that used to beat me too if I had been in their shoes.

         The main complaint I have with this film is that it glorified white supremacy and made it look as though the African Americans were horrible animals by the way they acted in the film.

         The film was not all bad; it did cover a lot of historical events. This film showed the assassination of President Lincoln, battles of the Civil War, and the development of the Ku Klux Klan. I do not feel the development of the Ku Klux Klan was necessary, and I wished it never was, but it was important that Griffith had included that in his film because the audience needed to be informed of when, where, and why the KKK was formed. They are the reason we still have hate crimes today, and they keep spreading.

Sarah Ellegood

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