As I continue digging further into DK Book’s The Movie Book, I move onto the work of D.W. Griffith. I had previously reviewed his epic film, Intolerance, and have moved onto his key works.
Listed first is A Corner in Wheat, a short from 1909.
This film is as stunningly relevant today as it was in the year it was made. The film opens with a farmer working his land, he has resources, and aid, as he wanders his field, planting seeds, his plough horses working behind him.
In the city, a business tycoon, the head of a greedy corporation, decides to corner the market on wheat, buying up stock and companies so that he can control it all, dictate prices, and live off the wealth that will come.
And it does come. For him.
But now that he controls it, he ups prices and soon those who work the land can’t afford to eat what they grow, bread prices go up, bread lines increase, poverty is on the rise, riots quelled by the police, and production is down, because paid demand is less.
I was stunned at how relevant this short feels.
There is a bit of comeuppance for the the tycoon, but by the time it happens, it is far too late to be of any use to the farmer who has lost his help, and his resources, leaving him to work his field alone, while his wife and child suffer their hunger in silence.
The camera is static throughout, movement would be a way off yet, but the action is telling, the movements of the farmer are laboured, dedicated, but slow, while the tycoon leaps about, joyous, hosting parties, frenetic, and uncaring of the world around him, but for his bottom line.
I was rather surprised how karma caught up with him.
Griffith apparently had lots to say about his country and life in general as his body of work shows, and not all of it good. It’s a completely different experience from watching a film by Georges Melies film.
While Melies film are entertaining, joyous, exciting and whimsical, Griffith’s films are almost oppressive in their reality as they are centred very much in the real world, no matter where or when the story is set.
This is a film that should be not only remembered, but shared today, showing that art can speak to the events of the country, of the world, and spotlight the greed that seems to drive so many.
A surprisingly solid film imbued with commentary and relevance. I quite enjoyed this foray into the beginnings of American film.
There is more to come, and the fantastic The Movie Book from DK Books is filled with films that you may have never heard of, but are definitely worth your time. Pick it up and check it out tonight!