These movies constructed white men as heroes and guardians of morality and civilization, white women as frail but morally superior figures, and African-American and immigrant men and women as uncontrollable sexual deviants who threatened civilization. These films reflected the fears of the white middle class that massive immigration, waves of black migration to the North, and the increasingly public role of women were irrevocably changing American society and threatening the power of the traditional dominant group in the United States: white middle- and upper-class men.
In the 1910s and 1920s the film industry was fascinated with rape in silent feature films. Out of a sample of fifteen of the most popular feature films from 1915 through 1927, eleven contained single or multiple scenes of attempted rape.(1) The attempted rape served as a transitional point for the films and indicated some momentous change in the story line was about to occur. But more importantly rape also acted as a metaphor for larger cultural concerns. Indeed, the action initiated by the sexual violence operated as a symbolic episode that legitimized the power and dominance of white men of the middle and upper classes, who were united through a common culture of respectability that emphasized etiquette and genteel values (Bushman, 1993). Attempted rape scenes in these popular films developed a triangular relationship between the white, manly hero saving his white, female love interest from the sexual violence of the African-American or immigrant rapist. Such plots were based upon a long tradition of melodramatic story-telling with clearly defined notions of good and evil, and many films followed the time-worn traditions of the past. But because films defined white men as good and powerful, white women as objects of sexual violence or adoration, and African-American and immigrant men as violent, all helped to reinforce the cultural perception that white middle-class men were powerful, and that civilization depended on that power. These films defined images of all three types of people by juxtaposing them against the others: logical and powerful white manhood contrasted with weak and passive womanhood and with the destructive sexual energy of the more "primitive" manhood of African-American and southern- and eastern-European men. In short, silent feature films often used rape to preserve and support dominant white manhood, to subordinate women, and to perpetuate negative stereotypes of non-Caucasian males. Further, the metaphorical form these movies used to convey that power--rape--also created a highly charged atmosphere of sexuality.
Dersu Uzala :
This film, directed not by a Russian but a Japanese (the famous director, Kurosawa) using mostly Russian or Soviet actors and staff, is nonetheless a classic of Russian cinema in the same way that the St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow is a symbol of Russia despite having been designed by an Italian. An Imperial Russian Army survey party in pre pre-WW1 times goes to chart previously uncharted lands in Eastern Siberia.