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film epic silent story

A nine-reel silent film from Italy, Quo Vadis? (1912), directed by Enrico Guazzoni, is credited by many with establishing the conventions of the spectacle film with its cast of thousands, memorable set pieces (a chariot race, the burning of Rome, lions in the Coliseum), and massive sets. Another influential early silent epic was Piero Fosco's Cabria (1914), which boasted even more magnificent sets and location shooting. Film historian David Cook credits Cabria with an influential use of traveling shots that reframe action and with atmospheric lighting (the so-called “Rembrandt lighting”). The first American epic was D.W. Griffith's Judith of Bethulia (1913), which combines, as Griffith would later do in Intolerance, four concurrently developing story lines. As silent film moved into the 1920s, noteworthy films appeared like King Vidor's The Crowd (1928), which brings out the universal by looking intently at the life of one office worker. Other significant films include Victor Seastrom's The Wind (1928), in which Lillian Gish plays a woman struggling in the harsh American frontier, Josef von Sternberg's The Last Command, about a Russian general after the revolution who tries to hold on to his dignity as he looks for work in Hollywood, and Wings (1927), a World War I story with epic aerial scenes directed by William Wellman, who had been himself a member of the Lafayette Flying Corps.

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