International Perspectives

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There is little question that D. W. Griffith was the first great international filmmaker and that the drop in European production during World War I helped American production assume a far greater international position than it might have otherwise. It should not be surprising, then, that in 1918 Griffith and his editing innovations were the prime influence on filmmakers around the world. In the Soviet Union, Griffith's Intolerance was the subject of intense study for its technical achievements as well as for its ideas about society. In the ten years that followed its release, Sergei Eisenstein wrote about Griffith,7 V.I. Pudovkin studied Griffith and tried to perfect the theory and practice of communicating ideas through film narrative, and Dziga Vertov reacted against the type of cinema Griffith exemplified.

In France and Germany, filmmakers seemed to be as influenced by the other arts as they were by the work of other filmmakers. The influence of Max Reinhardt's theatrical experiments in staging and expressionist painting are evidenced in Robert Wiene's The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919) (Figure 1.11). Sigmund Freud's ideas about psychoanalysis join together with Griffith's ideas about the power of camera movement in F. W. Murnau's The Last Laugh (1924). Griffith's ideas about camera placement, moving the camera closer to the action, are supplemented by ideas of distortion and subjectivity in E. A. Dupont's Variety (1925). In France, Carl Dreyer worked almost exclusively with Griffith's ideas about close-ups in The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928), and he produced one of the most intense films ever made.

Griffith accomplished a great deal. However, it was others in this silent period who refined and built upon his ideas about film editing.

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