David Wark Griffith. Intolerance. 1916
David Wark Griffith

Intolerance

1916
Not on view
Medium
35mm film (black and white and color tinted, silent)
Duration
196 min.
Credit
Acquired from the Artist. Preserved with funding from the Celeste Bartos Film Preservation Fund
Object number
1830
Department
Film

Intolerance is one of the cinema's earliest formal masterpieces. Its ambitious scale and lavish production—exemplified by the enormous, if historically inaccurate, set for the court of Babylon—were unprecedented at the time. The film was to serve as a mighty sermon against the hideous effects of intolerance; in it, Griffith proposed his view of history and myth. Intolerance interweaves his unfinished work, "The Mother and the Law,"a contemporary melodrama about the hypocrisy of well-off do-gooders set in the United States, with three parallel stories of earlier times: Christ at Calvary, the razing of Babylon by Persians, and the persecution of the Huguenots in France. Griffith explained the film: "The stories begin like four currents looked at from a hilltop. At first the four currents flow apart, slowly and quietly. But as they flow, they grow nearer and nearer together, and faster and faster, until in the end, in the last act, they mingle in one mighty river of expressed emotion."

The scale and extravagance of Intolerance brought Hollywood to the fore as the center for American film production. The film also exercised enormous international influence, particularly in post-Revolutionary Russia, where Lenin commended the scope and purpose of the film. But the complexity of the structure seemed to baffle early audiences, and Intolerance was a box-office failure, although Griffith's previous film, The Birth of a Nation (1915), had been a great success.

Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, revised 2004, originally published 1999, p. 96

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Image permissions

In order to effectively service requests for images, The Museum of Modern Art entrusts the licensing of images of works of art in its collections to the agencies Scala Archives and Art Resource. As MoMA’s representatives, these agencies supply high-resolution digital image files provided to them directly by the Museum's imaging studios.

All requests to reproduce works of art from MoMA's collection within North America (Canada, U.S., Mexico) should be addressed directly to Art Resource at 536 Broadway, New York, New York 10012. Telephone (212) 505-8700; fax (212) 505-2053; requests@artres.com; artres.com. Requests from all other geographical locations should be addressed directly to Scala Group S.p.A., 62, via Chiantigiana, 50012 Bagno a Ripoli/Firenze, Italy. Telephone 39 055 6233 200; fax 39 055 641124; firenze@scalarchives.com; scalarchives.com.

Requests for permission to reprint text from MoMA publications should be addressed to text_permissions@moma.org.

Related links:
Outside North America: Scala Archives
North America: Art Resource