Seeing / Not Seeing

A Flash of Light
R: David W. Griffith. B: Stanner E.V. Taylor. K: G.W. Bitzer. D: Charles West, Verner Clarges, Joseph Graybill, Stephanie Longfellow, Claire McDowell, Anthony O’Sullivan, Vivian Prescott, William Robinson. P: American Biograph. USA 1910
Print: EYE

“A strongly dramatic picture, yet not altogether pleasant. A love story representing a man sorely deceived, and after an accident depriving him of sight and hearing cruelly deserted by his wife. Then she is induced to come back as the bandages are removed from his partially restored eyes so he may not know the truth. The climax, when the former wife pulls down the curtain and lets in the blinding flash that destroys the partially restored sight forever, is not pleasant, and yet it adds a strong ending to the play. Acted with the ability shown by the Biograph players, this picture will be popular, even though disagreeable, because it arouses the emotions. No matter if they are depressing, the fact that the emotions are stirred is sufficient to make the film popular.”
The Moving Picture World, July 30, 1910

“The implications of the astonishing, quite entertainlingly played conclusion are worth to teasing out. Clearly the wife is no mere bystander to her husband’s tragedy but causes his blindness, literally so in allowing sunlight to inflict the ‘incurable’ condition. Moreover, it inquires only a small metaphorical leap to assign blame to her for his initial blindness as well, brougth by the bright flash of the chemical explosion, which follows hard on her desire to be seen outside the home, by her preferring the world’s ‘glitter’, and by her desire to ‘shine’ on stage. In the visual metaphors of the film, she seeks more light than her husband’s eyes can tolerate. That such desire is reprehensible is reinforced by Griffith’s ‘ethical intercutting’ between the wife and her brilliant party and the husband working away in his windowless basement lab. If the ethical contrast looks less stark than when Griffith used such cutting in, say, A Corner in Wheat, it is hardly less difficult to pinpoint the villain of the piece: this would-be indepent wife seeking the light.”
Scott Simmon: The Films of D. W. Griffith. CUP Archive 1993, p. 76

>>> Griffith 1910

The motif of blindness, another example:

Mieux valait la nuit
R: Unknown. D: Cécile Guyon. P: Société Française des Films Éclair. Fr 1911
Print: EYE
Dutch titles

“Cinema is visual entertainment. It seems only fair then that filmmakers are obsessed with themes around seeing and not seeing. Not being able to see provides an intensely dramatic plot, with regaining one’s vision often constituting the climax. Whether melodramas, comedies, or even documentaries, plots are often constructed in such a way to achieve ‘better vision’. (…)

While preparing to go out with her husband, Simone is blinded by a sudden explosion in her face while her maid helps her do her hair (this accident is shown in a neighbouring room via a reflection in a mirror, while her husband reads a newspaper in the foreground). The doctors tell her she can never see again. Despite giving Simone loving care, her husband eventually grows fond of one of her best friends. The lovers get careless, trusting that Simone can never see them together. But Simone secretly tries an alternative cure which does heal her. She rushes to tell her husband, only to witness him in the arms of his lover, and collapses of a broken heart.
Not much is known about this mysterious Éclair film. The identification of the title is not fully confirmed, and no information about the cast is available in written sources. We believe that Simone is played by Renée Sylvaire , and her rival by Cécile Guyon. Could the husband be the Éclair veteran André Liabel?”
Elif Rongen-Kaynakçi
Antti Alanen: Film Diary