THE HOUSE WITH THE CLOSED SHUTTERS || 1910, USA || Drama || Directed by – D.W. Griffith / Written by – Emmet C. Hall / Cinematography – G.W. Bitzer / Starring – Henry B. Walthall, Grace Henderson, Dorothy West / Running time: 16 mins.
The American Civil War, viewed from the perspective of the South, provided great inspiration for many of works by D.W. Griffith. Patriotism and cowardice are at the heart of his short The House with Closed Shutters, which takes place in these historic times. It tells also tells arguably one of the most peculiar and dark stories of any of his films around this time by following a man who sets off to war, only to return shortly thereafter drunk and terrified by its horrific and dangerous spectacle. In order to safeguard the reputation of his name and her family, his loving and brave sister dresses up in his attire and poses as him in order to complete his mission. But once she arrives on the battlefield, she finds herself fired up by her beliefs and her passion, and meets her end while undertaking an ultimate symbolic gesture of heroism, recovering a Confederate flag.
Griffith did not come up with the concept of the scenario, and this is part of the reason why it feels so different. Here, he even momentarily ditches the social realist style that had shaped his works up to this point, by shifting towards darker and more abstract territories, even shifting for the downright gothic in the film’s tragic epilogue. Despite the story’s implausibilities, this subtle and yet evident adaptation of style allows The House with Closed Shutters to retain some degree of power and credibility.
It is also interesting to note that despite it not being adapted from a Griffith scenario, he is still able to focus on many elements that are prominent throughout his body of work. Aside from the afore mentioned theme of war, and its psychological and patriotic connotations, one of the most interesting of these elements is the examination of the role of the female, represented here as empowered and resilient, which is not unusual considering the prominence of heroines throughout his entire filmography. – 4/5