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299 Ratings

Way Down East

Directed by D.W. Griffith
United States, 1920
Silent, Drama


A naive country girl is tricked into a sham marriage by a wealthy womanizer, then must rebuild her life despite the taint of having borne a child out of wedlock.

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Way Down East Directed by D.W. Griffith

Critics reviews

The beauty of WAY DOWN EAST lies less in its construction than in its patina—the spiritual conviction, the sincerity and simplicity of the melodrama, the unflagging correctness of each shot and gesture, and above all the ethereal evocation of rural Maine, albeit by way of Griffith’s mammoth studio in Mamaroneck, New York.
July 10, 2015
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Finally, [Gish’s character is] the tiny figure splayed on the frozen river as it cracks into a jigsaw of floes, one of Griffith’s most rousing visions of film as visual-emotional ebb and flow, connection and rupture.
August 06, 2012
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What are people saying?

  • El Biffo's rating of the film Way Down East

    Who decided that this racist pig Griffith deserves to be rehabilitated? His patriarchal, religious moralizing is even more difficult to swallow in light of his glorification of the KKK, and depiction of Black men as a threat to white women. There were a few good moments in this film, but not enough to compensate for the White moralistic and misogynistic theme. Griffith's films should be left to rot, not restored!

  • Duncan Gray's rating of the film Way Down East

    For my money, Griffith's best film. His epic impulses are scaled back and his most odious politics are nowhere in sight—indeed, as an empathetic story of sexual double standards and single motherhood, Griffith's moralizing finds itself on the right side of history. That leaves you only his strengths: skill and clarity as a visual storyteller, a deeply felt sense of community, and a hell of a final setpiece.

  • kit duckworth's rating of the film Way Down East

    the best part of any lillian gish movie is lillian gish. she had a way of moving still reflected in performances as late as nastassja kinski’s in cat people (1982): fingers splayed and frantic, hair tufted, owl eyes, a sincere-seeming mania. d.w. griffith left a sour legacy but, if you feel able, watch for lillian

  • suede's rating of the film Way Down East

    7.5/10. Hands down Griffith's best. Fluid, super-early modern Hollywood epic—formulaic before formula was established! Saw marvellous MOMA restoration, carefully documenting missing scenes. Textbook assembly of stock characters. Story drags in middle act. Highly contrived: outdoor finale, happy ending. DG's intertitles now less pompous! We feel for the underdog heroine—sexually exploited, then bullied by hypocrites.

  • dAlton Anthony's rating of the film Way Down East

    A reactionary portrait of one woman’s hapless sin against Christian values and American society. Her “crimes of passion” threaten to engulf an entire New England village and send its bucolic tranquility into chaos and disorder. The film is explicitly concerned with women’s re-productive labor and their roles as mothers and wives. One of the subtle tricks at work is to frame the woman as a victim in need of rescue.

  • Den-Leroy Kangalee's rating of the film Way Down East

    A talented man with backward thinking. He created "morality" plays for White people but excoriated Blacks. What is our obsession with him? How this man, his movies, and the endless gushing over him still reigns supreme in 2015 is mind-bending. Overrated, dangerous, racist -- I'll take a Hallmark over Griffith any day of the week.

  • db's rating of the film Way Down East

    Extraordinary. My first experience of both D.W. Griffith and Lillian Gish, actually. The musical score was beautifully put together. The missing bits in this restored edition reminds one of how fragile these near 100-year old films are.

  • Kelly Ricardo's rating of the film Way Down East

    I feel the climax is a bit drawn out, but other than that everything is done very well here. Perhaps a bit less experimental with camera technique than usual, but this is more than made up for by what is certainly one of Gish's best performances I've seen thus far in a Griffith film (moving chronologically here.) Also alot less of the pointless silent-dialogue-without-title-card-or-meaningful-gesture uselessness.

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