Belshazzar's feast scene from Intolerance - Framed Picture - 12" x 16"
Intolerance is a 1916 epic silent film directed by D. W. Griffith.
Widely regarded as one of the great masterpieces of the silent era, the three-and-a-half-hour epic intercuts four parallel storylines, each separated by several centuries:
(1) a contemporary melodrama of crime and redemption,
(2) a Judean story: Christ's mission and death,
(3) a French story: the events surrounding the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre of 1572,
(4) a Babylonian story: the fall of the Babylonian Empire to Persia in 539 BC.
Each story had its own distinctive color tint in the original print but in the current available versions that is not the case anymore. The scenes are linked by shots of a figure representing Eternal Motherhood, rocking a cradle.
Intolerance was made partly in response to criticism of Griffith's previous film, The Birth of a Nation (1915), which was criticized by the NAACP and other groups as perpetuating racial stereotypes and glorifying the Ku Klux Klan.
It was not—as is commonly implied—an apology for the racism of his earlier film; in numerous interviews, Griffith made clear that the film's title and overriding themes were meant as a response to those who he felt had been intolerant of him in condemning The Birth of a Nation. In the years following its release, Intolerance would strongly influence European film movements.
In 1989, it was one of the first films to be selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
Intolerance was a colossal undertaking featuring monumental sets, lavish period costumes, and more than 3,000 extras. The lot on Sunset Boulevard featured a Babylon set with 300 feet walls as well as streets of Judea and medieval France. The extras were reported to have been paid total of $12,000 a day.
Griffith began shooting the film with the Modern Story (originally titled "The Mother and the Law"), whose planning predated the great commercial success of The Birth of a Nation. He then greatly expanded it to include the other three parallel stories under the theme of intolerance. Three hundred thousand feet of film was filmed.
In 1989, it was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant", going in during the first year of voting.
The film has been widely reported to have been a box office bomb, but this is a myth attributed to its misreported budget. Even though the film was the most expensive American film made up to that point and it did far less business than The Birth of a Nation, it earned approximately $1 million for its backers, a respectable performance and enough to recoup its budget.
Intolerance and its unorthodox editing were enormously influential, particularly among European and Soviet filmmakers. Many of the numerous assistant directors Griffith employed in making the film—Erich von Stroheim, Tod Browning, Woody Van Dyke—went on to become important and noted Hollywood directors in subsequent years.