Why was Birth of a Nation such a fantastic hit in its day and even continues to be? Perhaps it has to do with the fact that it is a little over three hours long, it is about the civil war and the Reconstruction, and, finally, it has specific characters who draw our attention. It has to do with characters who fall in love but are separated because of the war, a family waiting for the war to end and their worry of a loved one potentially dying to come to a stop, three sons finding friends, love, during a war, but also having to deal with problems put in their way, and enslaved blacks wanting to be free. This is only a little bit of why this movie is still amazing to watch.
Birth of a Nation was the first silent black-and-white American three-hour-long movie. It was published in the year 1915. Directed by D. W. Griffith and based on the novel by Thomas Dixon’s work — The Clansman — Birth of a Nation is about a family or two who live in the times of the Civil War. These families are the Camerons and the Stonemans. One family resides in the South, another in the North. Therefore, when separation and war hit, these families are then fighting against each other. Several months or so before the war, the two families come together. Not only is there friendship between the sons of the families, but love begins in both sides of the family throughout the movie. A Cameron son and a Stoneman daughter parallel a Stoneman son and a Cameron daughter. However, love shows up in the movie in several different ways, not just between friends and loved-ones who are separated by North and South. There is the love of a mother for her three sons during the war. Also, the love of her daughters as well, as she and her husband try to protect them during a raid. There is the love of the Stoneman and his daughter and the Cameron sisters with their brothers. We sit on the edge of seats to see what will be the turnout of this. What will happen? Will the brothers live? Will the families reunite? Who will be there? The questions go on and on but they keeps us watching the movie. D. W. Griffith knew what he was doing.
Throughout the movie, we are locked in. Even today. Although, it is a silent movie, the dialogue of some scenes are shown on the screen, making the movie a little more understandable. There is the part of love and family and friendship. There is the thing about the blacks. A character who plays black goes down into the South and tries to free the slaves. This is after the fact of the war. Lincoln is murdered, Lynch, the black from the North, tries to free those blacks still loyal to their old owners.
The Birth of a Nation is definitely worth your time to watch it. To see America’s first major blockbuster is a must do. Scene after scene, I assure you, you will be glued. The movie gives us that feeling of what it must have been like during the Civil War and after. You will not regret watching the movie. It may take a while to watch, but I think there will be some scenes that will stick with you for a long time.
P.S. I do have to add: While Birth of a Nation was a good movie, with its amazing actors, I do have to say that with the KKK in the second half, it made it less enjoyable. But that was how it was back then.