Extremely advanced storytelling technique for a silent movie. It has four parallel story lines taking place in different time periods but with the same themes. It is gripping and presented and acted in a way few silent films manage. So ahead of it's time and when producers today don't even find time and money to make epics anymore because it is "too risky" it is impressive this has even been made over 100 years ago.
All glory for set designers. I could smell Griffith's bloated ego a mile away. The Birth of a Nation comes under fire for portraying Ku Klux Klan in a positive way, Griffith doesn't understand why his talent is critized, Griffith vomits his most pompous creative energy on screen in the form of Intolerance. The fact that he's regarded as practically the only silent technical genius is just plain wrong.
Fascinating from a film history perspective, but pretty hard going to watch and incredibly self-indulgent. The unbelievable sets and sheer spectacle of it all is somewhat tarnished by the frequent exaggerated mugging and gurning to camera. And of the four interlinked stories, only two held any interest for me.
The intimacy of Griffith's close-ups and the jaw-dropping scope of his period sets makes for an interesting juxtaposition, beyond the four historical eras he invokes. The close-ups allow the actors to derive power from piercing eyes, not gesticulation. On the opposite side of the spectrum, Griffith also pulls back and uses the full scope of the frame to fill the screen with information.
5/10. Visually vastly more interesting than the KKK turd. E.g., the Babylon story: monumental set!, gore!, battle towers!, nudity! Histrionics, too. Narratively: a gargantuan mess, united only by many pompously moralizing intertitles. Every formatting option in Powerpoint 1916 was tried out in these; Griffith also hellbent on using stuffy olde English, instead of improving intelligibility amidst all discontinuities.