Griffith’s ‘Ethical Intercutting’

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