Monday, January 7, 2013

The Unchanging Sea (1910)

Life in a seaside fishing village means that the men often leave home for their work, while the women remain behind and wait for their husbands to return.  One such young lady (Linda Arvidson) stands with the other wives as she first says farewell to her husband (Arthur V. Johnson), and then later gazes out at the empty ocean in the days to come, searching the horizon.  After a few months it is assumed that her husband is among those drowned in an accident.  The young wife is left to raise their baby daughter by herself.  The years pass, and eventually the child grows up and is ready to marry.  The wife, thinking that she must live the rest of her life alone, is instead in for a surprise.

The Unchanging Sea is a beautiful example of an effective, understated, and striking early silent short film.

I saw it for the first time some years ago through the D.W. Griffith ‘Years of Discovery (1909-1913)’ DVD set.

The picture, just fourteen minutes long, is inspired by Charles Kingsley's poem The Three Fishers and has such an ethereal and poignant mood.  There's a great contrast between the consistent nature of the ocean and those who seek their livelihood from it, and the lives of the individuals who age and experience various trials throughout the passage of time.  Intertitles are used sparingly, only when necessary, and sometimes feature lines from the poem on which the tale is based.  Director D.W. Griffith's innovative film-making techniques and camerawork, including shot compositions, are quite impressive.

Although many years pass in a short span of time, the story itself never feels rushed, but remains well-paced throughout.  The acting performances are subtle and sincere, bringing a fine charm to this thoughtful little film.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

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