Nothing less than a reconstruction of history according to melodramatic, rather than political, imperatives, The Birth Of A Nation generalises Griffith's home invasion topos to the entire South, reducing the legacy of the Civil War to a series of archetypal moments that, taken collectively, evoke a ghostly, hallucinatory racist subconscious, its insatiability encapsulated in the sublime charge of the Ku Klux Klan that concludes the film. At their starkest, these involve a complete, apocalyptic reversal of the order of things ("The master in chains paraded before his former slaves"), attributed not to Lincoln, nor even to his misguided sidekick, Stoneman (based on Thaddeus Stevens), but to the latter's proximity to the mulatto community, embodied more by his maid than his protege. In fact, the issue of race is artfully elided from the war, which is construed as a struggle for (Daniel Webster's version of) state sovereignity that the African-American simply happens to have used as a pretext to rape and pillage the country, while reconstruction, and the reunion of North and South, becomes interchangeable with miscegenation. That said, this repressed political dimension makes unexpected, incongruous returns, as in one of the protagonist's fierce defence of his loyal maid's right not to vote. For the most part, however, the African-American simply reifies the threat inherent in Griffith's perennial vestibular space, whose figurative prominence is enhanced by his reconfiguration of Lincoln's assassination around an absent bodyguard - an episode that also epitomises the film's voyeuristic delight in witnessing history ("Time, 10:13. Act 2, Scene 2."), as do the astonishing depictions of the Civil War itself, which, encompassing hundreds of men, weapons and props, and shot from a series of extreme high, wide vantage points, set the standard for all war film to come, as well as satisfying the need for some representation of the contemporary struggle, explaining the poetic prominence of frontal combat and, to an even greater extent, no- man's-land. That said, the logistical achievement of the family saga is just as great, delineating and elaborating an unprecedented number of protagonists and interests, cementing Griffith's mastery of cross-editing (especially in the final sequence), and going some way to fulfil his opening claim to the panoramic sweep of Shakespeare and the Bible.