The film begins with a close-up of Gance himself staring into the camera: j'accuse! But who is he accusing of what? This WWI melodrama is bursting with ideas and energy but void of such concepts as consistency, subtlety, credibility. Taking his characters from 19th century romance (the poet, the brute, the dying mother, the illegitimate tot), applying lashings of symbolism (from nature and religion), Gance compounds the artifice - unwisely - with some frontline actualité. The climax is the shellshocked hero's vision of the war dead returning to judge their families, who are found sadly unworthy of the sacrifice. So after all, it's ungrateful stay-at-homes and unfaithful wives Gance is accusing. He would have more to say two decades later.