Saturday Silents: “The Unchanging Sea,” by D. W. Griffith

After showing Cabiria last week, surely this week it’s time for Intolerance, the movie that D. W. Griffith was inspired to make after watching Cabiria?

Let’s save that feature for another time. Here is something else that’s shorter and much sweeter. The direction is superb, and the story, while melodramatic, is a wonderful one. The actors convey so much, even the fact – touchy at the time – that the young wife is pregnant.

Griffith was a master storyteller and also open to many artistic influences. His Unchanging Sea was inspired by “The Three Fishers,” by Charles Kingsley. Excerpts from the poem appear on the title cards.

The film maker imagined what would happen if one of the fishers returned alive but with amnesia.

Mary Pickford has a small but important role here as the grownup child.

Of note, during the scene where they’re pulling the bodies out of the surf (not a spoiler, really), it’s evident that an actual storm has happened.

D. W. Griffith tended to work with Nature as a collaborator, and he may well have waited to film that scene until the day after a storm. It really does add realism and an extra emotional touch (Nature’s storm is past but the trouble for people is just beginning).

YouTube’s Cinema History Channel has provided a soundtrack for this, under Creative Commons Attribution:

Categories: Saturday Silents

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