The Birth Of A Nation Essay

The Birth Of A Nation Essay

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The film “The Birth of a Nation”1915 by D.W. Griffith, acclaimed to be one of the most innovative films in American history of cinema ,it was a huge commercial success, and yet it states multiple controversial themes. The groundbreaking use of elements of mise-en-scene, cinematography and editing in the scene “Riot in the Master’s Hall” emphasize on key ideas of the film such as the restoration of order, the fear of interracial marriage, and the idea that the empowerment of African Americans threatens white identities. Mise-en-scene is a fundamental source when it comes to understanding a character.
In the scene “Riot in the Master’s Hall”, several elements of mise-en-scene contributed to building the characteristics of the crowd, especially the performances. The act of the black characters was shown to be improper and inappropriate, eating, drinking , laughing, the angrily yelling judge, the person who took off a shoe in the middle of a ruling court, as well as many constantly moving characters that are included in one shot. In a long shot, these mannerless actions of the “Blacks” are juxtaposed with the quiet, still white actors who are sitting at the back, creating an association of chaos and order, suggesting one of the themes of this film “The restoration of order” and in this case, to “restore” the order by bringing back white supremacy. Another element of mise-en-scene that is crucial to the portrayal of black roles in this scene is the costume which references the “The Dandy” character in minstrelsy, a character who would mimic the white upper-class way of dressing, but usually fails obtusely. This again strengthens the portrayal of black characters as out of order and foolish, moreover, it questions their ability to be...


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...white women as a black man is associated with violation and rape.
Using three of the formal elements, the performance of mise-en-scene, the iris of cinematography and the continuity editing, the scene “Riot in the Master’s Hall” portrays black males as mannerless, inappropriate, furious, animalistic creatures while presenting the white group as quiet, formal, minor and innocuous. The contrast of black and white characterizations closely relate to multiple central ideas of the film, the restoration of order, the fear of interracial marriage, and the idea that the empowerment of African Americans threatens white identities. Although presented with controversial racist themes, film “The Birth of a Nation”1915 by D.W. Griffith continues to be an icon in the history of cinema and commemorated for its innovative use of mise-en-scene, cinematography, and editing elements.

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