Way Down East


American Film


September 23, 2004


D.W. Griffith’s great film, Way Down East, is a silent melodramatic film with many different stories within one great plot. The movie opens with a mother and a daughter sitting at their quiet countryside house laughing and talking. The daughter is Anna Moore, the main character of the film, who must leave to see her cousins in the city. The movie tells of her travels from her cousin’s house in the city to almost losing her life on the icy river running away from her past.


In the first scene of the movie, Anna is seen with shorter, darker hair that is almost always pulled up. By the end of the movie, she has lighter and longer hair that is almost always down and waving around. I found this symbolic because it seems as if she becomes happier but more aged by the end of the film because she has been through so many experiences trying to run away from her past and make a better future for herself. She has had so many people in her life that have caused her to run away or hide. Some of these people are her “husband” Lennox Sanderson, who lied to her about their marriage; they were never married in the first place. When Anna had Sanderson’s baby, Maria Poole, the lady that was there during the delivery, was ashamed of Anna and spread the word that she was an unmarried mother, just before Anna’s baby passed away. Martha Perkins is another character that likes to spread gossip about people. She heard from Maria Poole that Anna was an unmarried mother and told Anna’s boss on the homestead so she would have to leave and start a whole new life. There seems to be the theme of people rooting for Anna to fail throughout the movie.


While the movie was pretty self-explanatory in the basic events of the characters, it was sometimes hard to follow without conversation between the people in the film and all of the music in the background. The scenes move very quickly and it was sometimes difficult to keep track. By the end of the film, it was very helpful for Griffith to wrap the film and characters up and have his closing comments to recount the events of the movie. Overall, it was very well scripted and had very good acting by the characters, especially considering this was made so long ago.