The Wrath of the Gods

The Wrath of the Gods
R: Reginald Barker. B: William H. Clifford, Thomas H. Ince. D: Sessue Hayakawa, Tsuru Aoki, Frank Borzage, Kisaburô Kurihara, Henry Kotani. P: New York Motion Picture (Thomas H. Ince). USA 1914
Special effects: Raymond B. West
Filming Locations: Inceville Studio, Santa Monica, California

“On 12 January 1914, a volcano erupted on the island of  Sakura-Jima in Kagoshima prefecture, in the southern part of Japan. Because of the stream of lava, the island of Sakura-Jima became connected to Osumi Peninsula on Kyushi, one of the main islands of Japan. It was one of the largest disasters in the history of Japan. Thomas H. Ince lost no time in grasping an opportunity to make a film based on this event. (…) The filming of  The Wrath of the Gods began on 27 January 1914, only fifteen days after the eruption, and finished on 13 February. The eruption of Sakura-Jima was not only a subject with hot news value but also a good opportunity for Ince to make a spectular film with an authentic depiction of Japan and its people. (…) Ince wanted to make The Wrath of the Gods his Cabiria. The Wrath of the Gods was far more than a news film or a travelogue. Ince made his project into a spectular melodrama and a sensational event movie by exploiting the exotic landscape and people. Hayakawa was not a star of this film. He was not even a leading character of this project but merely an ingredient to compose the melodrama. Aoki played a leading role in the film but in a strategic manner. First of all, Ince fictionalized Aoki’s birthplace and connected it to the eruption of Sakura-Jima in a tear-jerking way. (…)

In this melodramatic moralistic dichotomy, Japan is not regarded as a modern nation. It is not an indepent existence, but a place somewhere in a totalized primitive region. It is not so much a historical community as an atemporal space where superstitious savages live. In The Wrath of the Gods, the binary axis is not drawn between a historical region and a modern nation-state, but in a more archetypal way between the civilized and the savage. With this de-historicization, the film, which originally has a news or travelogue quality, turns into a melodramatic fable that regards the civilized America and Christianity as good and the primitive space and its religion as evil.”
Daisuke Miyao: Sessue Hayakawa: Silent Cinema and Transnational Stardom. Duke University Press 2007, p. 57-64

>>> Subtle Understatement: Sessue Hayakawa on this website

>>> Reginald Barker films: The CowardThe BargainThe Italian