The ‘Inception’ of Movie Editing: The Art of D.W. Griffith


Scene from The Unchanging Sea and Inception

The following video essay by by Michael Joshua Rowin and Kevin B. Lee of (via Matthew Seitz) takes a look at the parallel editing of Christopher Nolan’s Inception, but using the work of D.W. Griffith to show where it all started, the video opens by saying, “[When] compared to the work of a filmmaker who directed a hundred years before Nolan, Inception doesn’t look all that mind-blowing. Considered the father of narrative cinema, D.W. Griffith practically invented such techniques like parallel editing, pushing them to unprecedented levels of complexity and depth.”

“The true architect of Inception is D.W. Griffith.” ~ Michael Joshua Rowin

It’s a fascinating look at the effect cinema’s history has had on the movies today and why cinephiles always make sure to point out the directors that started it all as a warm reminder that by not opening yourself up to the history of cinema you’re missing several chapters of a much larger story.

The essay comparisons include Griffith’s The Sealed Room, A Corner in Wheat, The Unchanging Sea, The Birth of a Nation and Intolerance and you can read a full transcript right here. Oddly enough I have Intolerance saved on my DVR right now after it showed on TCM recently and Robert Osborne mentioned this exact same technique, albeit without the Inception comparison.

I also thought it was fascinating to watch Griffith’s films with snippets of Hans Zimmer’s Inception score playing over them. It’s indirectly a commentary on film scores as well, which just makes it that much better.

[vimeo id=”128220350″ width=”640″]

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