Forget Wes Anderson and Michel Gondry. You can even forget Gus Van Sant, Lars von Trier and David Lynch (keep the sexy bits from Mulholland Drive though. That is irreplaceable). The director you really need to know is D.W. Griffith. The man invented a crucial filmmaking technique that is now taken for granted right across the medium. You know how an actor walks off screen to the right and then walks on in the next frame from the left and you know he’s entered another room? Griffith was the first to do that. He invented that shit.
D.W. Griffith is probably most famous for his 1915 film The Birth Of A Nation which is an incredibly long epic about the American Civil War and the birth of the Ku Klux Klan. However, in 1912 he made a short film called The Sunbeam, a film about the shenanigans of the residents of a tenement building and an unlikely romance which serves as a neat warning not to get locked up somewhere with a repulsive member of the opposite sex for too long.
Now — one hundred years after it’s creation — The Sunbeam has been deftly re-edited by Spanish Documentary Film student Aitor Gametxo. Gametxo realised that Griffith’s camera was static and had a set number of entry points into the world of the tenement. He then used this to edit it showing the action in a split screen style rather than as a single screen. It shows perfectly how the world of the tenement is laid out and also how Griffith’s pioneering technique came about.
Gametxo has re-imagined the old film beautifully. It is captivating to see characters move from one scene to another and to see how the space of the film has been enlarged by this very tidy bit of editing.