In that paper, I will try to compare two films which are A Birth of a Nation directed by D.W.Griffith and The Bicycle Thieves directed by De Sica. After giving the story of the films, I will try to explaintheir technical features and their similarities.
A Birth of a Nation by D. W. Griffith
Griffith can be seen as the first ‘modern’ director, his greatest achievements being the historical epics The Birth Of A Nation.When it was released, it was one of the longest films ever made, over three hours in length. The prologue depicts the introduction of slavery to America in the seventeenth century and the beginnings of the abolitionist movement. The major part of the film depicts the events before, during and after the Civil War. It focuses on the exploitation of the newly-freed Negroes and the rise of the Ku Klux Klan in the south. Griffith shows itas a drama, a romance, and a documentary, with the vivid period reconstruction outweighing the personal stories. The title of the film is an interesting one. It is unknown whether the title refers to the birth of the reunited states, or the birth of the Ku Klux Klan. I tend to think that the film has a double meaning. In showing the Ku Klux Klan as good guys, it is obvious that Griffith was trying to show their birth as a positive event for the United States. Also, he was showing that the U.S. was once again reunited after the war, leading to the strengthening of the nation. It forebodes the future, when the South and the blacks living there are kept in check by the Ku Klux Klan , making the U.S. that much greater. Though it would be better to ignore this notion of the birth of the Ku Klux Klan, it cannot be due to the films content, although the film does show a truly united states.
The film is an incredible piece of propaganda for both the Ku Klux Klan and the Jim Crow system. The Jim Crow system was undergirded by the following beliefs or rationalizations: Whites were superior to Blacks in all important ways, including but not limited to intelligence, morality, and civilized behavior; sexual relations between Blacks and Whites would produce a mongrel race which would destroy America; treating Blacks as equals would encourage interracial sexual unions; any activity which suggested social equality encouraged interracial sexual relations; if necessary, violence must be used to keep Blacks at the bottom of the racial hierarchy People who knew nothing about the KU KLUX KLAN or thought of them as white villains before Birth of a Nation probably changed their minds and donned hoods of their own upon seeing the film. The mainstream picture was probably the best advertisement that the KU KLUX KLAN could have had. The vilifying of blacks also led to the Jim Crow system. When it was portrayed in this movie as acceptable, people in the South felt much better about doing horrible deeds to black citizens, denying blacks their civil rights
Though the portrayal of both blacks and the KU KLUX KLAN were extremely off track, the movie itself was an amazing work of cinema for its time. This was probably the first movie to use hundreds of extra in a battle scene. These scenes were well crafted by the filmmaker, and while not to the perfection of more modern films such as Braveheart, the technology and genius that the filmmaker used rival such films. To think that the movie was released only fifty years after the end of the Civil War makes the feat seem even more incredible. In seeing the huge battles, I did not need sound to hear the sounds of battle in my imagination. It would have been incredible if the movie had been made in the era where sound came into movies. Griffith deployed all the technical experiments of his previous movies for maximum visceral effect, along with a prepared score mixing classical music and folk tunes. With expressive close-ups, including cross-cutting, multiple camera positions, inter-titles long shots, irises and superimposition, Griffith communicated not only the monumental scale of Civil War battles but also the intimate psychology of his central characters. The climactic ride of the Klan to save white girlhood from black defilement marked Griffith’s most extraordinary and influential use of parallel editing to galvanize emotional excitement.
This is a one of the most important Neorealist films. Neorealism is a movement especially in Italian filmmaking characterized by the simple direct depiction of lower-class life. De Sica’s finest achievement is bringing the previously ignored working classes to the screen. His primary aim in the Bicycle Thieves was to use the camera to show how people lived. The non-professional actors give fine performances and lend the film a documentary-like air, even though the narrative itself is fictional.
A crowd forms in front of a government employment agency, as it does every day, waiting – often in vain – for job announcements. one of the unemployed laborers who participates in this daily ritual, is selected to hang posters in the city, a job requiring a bicycle, which he has long sold in order to sustain his family’s meager existence for a few more days. He and his wife, return to the pawn shop with a few remaining possessions, their matrimonial linen, in order to redeem the bicycle. During his first day at his new work, his bicycle is stolen. He combs the city with his young son, in search of the elusive bicycle. The movie focuses on both the relationship between the father and the son and the larger framework of poverty and unemployment in postwar Italy.
“The Bicycle Thief” is a searing allegory of the human condition, a caustic narrative of despair and hope, loss and redemption, poignantly told in subtle actions and spare words. A singular camera shot follows an employee climbing several stories of pawned linen in order to store another acquisition. A panning film sequence in a restaurant juxtaposes the father and son “feasting” on bread and mozzarella with an affluent family dining nearby. A long, travelling shot of a street bazaar shows Antonio and Bruno searching through an endless sea of nondescript bicycles, all presumably stolen. “The Bicycle Thief” is an honest examination of a soul torn by responsibility and moral consequence, a simple man incapable of articulating his pain, a film devoid of the proselytizing tirades endemic to the rose-colored lenses of contemporary Hollywood. “The Bicycle Thief” is the story of humanity, in all its imperfect beauty and heartbreaking cruelty, the quintessential definition of an artistic masterpiece…truly a cinematic landmark.
Deep-focus photography, constantly moving camera, long takes, and tragi-comic narratives were all used to greatest effect in the film.
When we look at these films we can say they are dramatic films. A Birth of a Nation is a personal story, about the clash of two families on opposite sides of the Civil War. Griffith goes through the critical events of the period, and give a persuasive picture of the era in. Furthermore, the story gives the viewer hope in humanity as the Ku Klux Klan rides away to the sunset with justice, power, and the women. The Bicycle Thief is the story of humanity dealt compassionately with the problems of people in post-World War II Italy. Griffith also goesthrough the critical events of the period. He tried to show the portrait of the post-war Italian disadvantaged class (the majority) in their search for self-respect. It is a time of struggle for the Italian people, amplified by a shortage of employment and lack of social services.