”Briefly stated, the theme of Intolerance is the emotional basis of history - or more specifically, intolerance is the cause of wars and is a prime mover of the World in all ages.”
This ambitious theme D. W. Griffith brought to the screen in the most immense film of all time, through the interaction of four separate stories, each illustrating his central argument. The four stories are: the
Judaean Story, depicting scenes from the life of Jesus, particularly the conflicts with the Pharisees; The Medieval Story in 16th century France and chronicling the struggles between Catholic and Huguenots; the story of the Fall of Babylon and a Modern Story dramatising the conflict between capital and labour in contemporary (1916) America.
Intolerance is chiefly remembered for its astounding spectacle scenes and by film historians, for its use of practically all the technical devices which have come into standard use. Besides this, however, it contains in the Modern Story, one of Griffith's most passionately felt dramatic works.
Griffith's concepts profoundly affected the development of the European as well as the American film. Leading European directors have freely admitted their debt to Griffith, and Dreyer, Eisenstein and Pudovkin are but three of many international figures who have publicly acknowledged him as a master of the film medium. Perhaps Pudovkin paid the simplest tribute by stating that his interest in films began when he first saw Intolerance.