Monday, October 08, 2018

The Lincoln Cycle 3: The Call to Arms (new digital transfer from Library of Congress)

Series credits see The Lincoln Cycle.
US 1917
DCP, 26’08’’
Le Giornate del Cinema Muto (GCM).
Grand piano: Gabriel Thibaudeau
Viewed at Teatro Verdi, Pordenone (John M. Stahl), 8 Oct 2018

AA: More "Early life struggles of Abraham Lincoln" in the series in which "Each feature is complete in itself".

We are still in the fatal year 1861 from which Lincoln's childhood reminiscences were told as flashbacks in the previous films. We meet Abraham at the White House as a patient husband and father. His resigned expression when he observes Mary Todd from his window tells everything we need to know about their relationship. At length we follow Abraham's way with his rascal sons Willie and Tad. He helps them in trouble but expects them to study hard. An affectionate memory play goes on as we revisit situations from Abe's own childhood with added moments. "All I am or hope to be I owe to my loving mother", he confesses to his sons.

Meanwhile the biggest crisis in U.S. history is escalating. A delegation is kept waiting, wearying of Lincoln's indecision. "Shall we fight?" is the question. To Lincoln, "the Southern stars are just as dear". Comes the news of Fort Sumter. The Union seems dissolved, "seven stars lost". But Lincoln remains loyal to his oath to serve the Union flag. "Not one star will be lost". "The Union is the hope of the world". Lincoln reads the declaration of war.

In the added finale Civil War views are dissolved into mobilization footage of the Great War. Amazingly, Benjamin Chapin as Abraham Lincoln urges our present sons to war "in the most critical period of history", to "fight for universal freedom".

The narrative unfolds in simple, plain folktale mode. There is an affinity with classical epics and the Western. Told like a fairytale, the story is based on historical fact. The presence of the little boys gives a special accent to the account of the national tragedy.

The image of Abraham Lincoln as the father of the nation is eloquent.

This film moved me more profoundly than anything so far at the festival.

The visual quality is fine in this valuable digital transfer.

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