Beyond the Image: Approaches to the Religious Dimension in by Ronald Holloway

By Ronald Holloway

Ebook by means of Holloway, Ronald

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Sample text

Besides the energetic, flamboyant figures of the primitive artist Zecca (Pathe credits him as "the most prolific director working before the First World War") and the artistic magician Melies, a third director brought cinematic art another giant step forward - the American Sidney Olcott, an actor-writer who entered filmmaking in 1904 to give the small Kalem company in Chicago its finest hour. Historian Lewis Jacobs recounts that Olcott found it too confining to work inside a studio; he turned instead to outdoor grandeur and the romantic folk hero.

The theme was "a protest against despotism and injustice in every form," tracing hypocrisy back through history from modern slums to Renaissance France to the Christ story to ancient Babylon. The four stories were edited into the single, flowing form of a fugue, tied by a poetic symbol of a mother rocking a cradle which drew its inspiration from Walt Whitman's lines "Out of the cradle endlessly rocking ... " Intolerance turned out to be a colossal production costing nearly two million dollars, running some 400 reels in negative, 13 reels in final form (about three hours in 56 BEYOND THE IMAGE length): it was a colossal failure.

The theme is echoed in the life of Laura Bell, London's celebrated courtesan, who turned to religion at the height of her fame, to become an evangelical preacheress. It is to be found too in the Art Academy's "stories-in-paintings," which turned to real life for inspiration while unveiling the bitter truth in the process. These paintings became the models for one-reel FROM THE "PASSION PLAY" TO "INTOLERANCE" 47 movie sermons a half-century later. Between 1908 and 1914, the years the American cinema moved to the forefront, the motion pictures preached with a passion Victorian attitudes contained in the poetry of Browning and Tennyson and the novels of Charles Dickens.

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