The Unchanging Sea (1910)    0 Stars


The Unchanging Sea (1910)
The Unchanging Sea (1910)


Director: D. W. Griffith

Cast: Arthur V. Johnson, Linda Arvidson, Gladys Egan

Synopsis: A fisherman returns to his home village years after losing his memory when lost at sea.






In the third year of his career as a director, D W Griffith was already showing considerable insight into what made a visually arresting composition, although on the evidence of The Unchanging Sea he still had some way to go when it came to narrative coherence. This 14 minute short is an adaptation of a poem by the Nineteenth Century poet Charles Fisher called The Three Fishers, and uses lines from Wheelers’ poem instead of conventional intertitles to drive the story forward.

Griffith regular Arthur V. Johnson (The Adventures of Dollie, The Lonely Villa) plays a fisherman whose boat gets into difficulties on a turbulent sea. The bodies of his three workmates are washed ashore, and although Johnson’s body is never found, everyone assumes he is dead. Everyone but his wife (Linda Arvidson – The Adventures of Dollie), that is, who lives in hope that he will one day return to her and the daughter he has never seen (Mary Pickford – Daddy-Long-Legs, Little Annie Rooney).

Even though it’s clear that Griffith was coming to grips with his craft, The Unchanging Sea is still a primitive movie which struggles to make sense of its simple storyline. Much of this is down to the short running time, which affords Griffith little opportunity to flesh out his characters or present key incidents as little more than snapshot moments, but even without these drawbacks the story would be a little confusing to follow. Griffith does, however, make effective use of the coastal location and the turbulent sea, and draws nuanced performances from his cast in an era when exaggerated gestures were commonplace.

(Reviewed 26th December 2014)

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