Film is the art form of the 20th century. Sure, there have been massive developments in visual arts and literature, but none of those had as big an impact on the lives of so many people as the movies did. And the 20th century itself has been the subject of the vast majority of films that have been produced. Every major event in those 100 years have been put on film, either at the moment itself or in a later dramatization. This series is an attempt to make a timeline of the great occurrences of the 20th century by means of the films that concern them. This week: 1910-1919. In case you history nerds are missing World War I: I have decided to give the great wars of the century their own entry.
The “teens” have gotten probably the worst overall name of the century, although the name preceded the invention of teenagers in the 1950′s and could therefore hardly be known. It was a time during which profound events started to happen, mostly in Europe. The great empires of the Old Continent started to crumble under the hardships of the first mechanical war, and it became clear to everyone that a time of great change was afoot.
Although the conclusion to this political movement happened in 1920 (in the US, at least) when the Nineteenth Amendment was introduced, the battle for women’s rights mostly took place during the teens. It is often dismissed as something that naturally happened as people became more civilized, but history often forgets the many women (and men!) who had the balls to stand up for their rights and their fellow human beings.
Feminism is all about putting things that history forgot on the map, which makes it all the more surprising that I honestly can’t find any movie about the movement. I know I promised to deliver you the history of the 20th century in movies, but it’s the lack of movies here that is most telling.
The start of The Prohibition
The Prohibition assumed that outlawing alcohol would make most Americans stop drinking. This is now widely regarded as “not a good idea”.
The Movie: Once Upon a Time in America
Although Sergio Leone’s movie covers the whole of prohibition and quite a lot more, I still feel that this is the best movie to understand the effect the Volstead act had on society. The ease with which the criminal world took up bootlegging is almost impressive. The movie itself is pretty good as well.
“The Birth of a Nation” and The second Klu Klux Clan
The Birth of a Nation is the blueprint for basically every movie you have ever seen. D. W. Griffith figured out in this film how to use images in a certain succession to tell a story visually, and this manner has been used ever since in almost every movie made. The movie was also, sadly, enormously racist, and in one of the most jarring examples of life imitating art “inspired” a bunch of Southern fuckbags to return to the good old days of punishing people for being black. Griffith himself sort of redeemed himself by making his next movie about the dangers of intolerance, but the Klu Klux Klan continued to exist for quite some time. A step forward in art, two steps backwards in real life.
The Sinking of the Titanic
The Titanic was a really big ship which was said to be unsinkable.
The Movie: Titanic
Tune in again next time, when I will discuss the films about World War I.