Hypocrites is a 50-minute 1915 film directed by pioneering female filmmaker Lois Weber.
A pastor delivers a sermon on the theme of hypocrisy, specifically calling out his flock for making a surface display of piety. It's true, as most of the congregation isn't paying attention, with the boys in the choir reading the funny pages and almost everyone else generally bored, except for one attractive woman in the audience who looks at him adoringly. The sermon goes over badly, and some of the pastor's parishoners—all of them well-heeled, from the looks of the fancy top hats and dresses—discuss firing him.
The pastor then has a dream in which he appears dressed as a medieval monk. He attempts to lead his parishoners on the road to Truth, a hard and narrow path up a steep incline to a mountaintop, but all but two of his parishoners find excuses not to climb with him. The two women who follow, the adoring woman and another in the congregation, can't make it up because the path is too steep. A flashback then shows "Gabriel the Ascetic", a medieval monk played by the same actor who plays the pastor, crafting a statue of Truth.
But that's not what this film is remembered for, to the extent that it is remembered. The pastor, in his modern-day dream, liberates from the top of the mountain a character called the Naked Truth—played by a fully-nude woman. In 1915.
- Allegory: A rare example of a film that is as overtly allegorical as, say, The Pilgrim's Progress. The "narrow way" to Truth is an actual narrow way that leads up a very steep mountain, while the "broad road" that leads away from Truth is, yes, an actual broad road. One parishioner is too greedy to find the way to Truth, which is shown by him carrying a bag of gold coins that bursts open.
- An Aesop: Apparently Lois Weber needed five reels to pound into movie audiences's heads the idea that hypocrisy is bad.
- As the Good Book Says...: The pastor quotes from Matthew 23:28. "In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness."
- Broken Aesop: The pastor/monk is supposed to be leading people to Truth, or at least trying to, but he isn't willing to help anyone. Both of the women who follow him fail to make it to the top because the path is too steep. The one who gets the closest, the one who was looking adoringly at him during the sermon, actually extends her hand and says "I need your hand", but he refuses to help her.
- Corrupt Politician: A politician is shown campaigning, with a sign on his podium that says "My Platform Is Honesty." The mirror of the Naked Truth shows him accepting payoffs.
- Dying Dream: The whole adventure of the priest/monk turns out to be a dying dream, as his parishoners find him dead in the church, clutching the newspaper article about the nude statue that angered people in Paris.
- Fanservice: It's pretty tastefully done, with actress Margaret Edwards being shot in a double exposure that makes her look appropriately ghostly. Additionally, for much (but not all) of her time on film she is shot from the side with her arms positioned to hide her breasts.
- Gold Digger: The woman accepting a proposal of marriage is shown by the mirror to have rejected another man, and to look very hungrily at her new man's large bankroll.
- Greed: One of the parishoners who fails to follow the pastor to the mountaintop refuses to go up because the bag of gold coins he's carrying broke open.
- Hypocrite: Yes! The Naked Truth reveals that everyone in town, apparently, is pious on the surface but deeply hypocritical and dishonest underneath.
- Literal Metaphor: The "naked truth"? A naked woman.
- Longing Look: The pastor and the woman in the congregation shoot these at each other from time to time.
- Magic Mirror: The Naked Truth holds a magic mirror, which shows people's hypocrisies.
- The Mirror Shows Your True Self: The Naked Truth's mirror shows people's true selves underneath their hypocrisies. A politician who campaigns on "honesty" is shown accepting bribes. A man and woman getting engaged are shown to be a cheater and a Gold Digger, respectively. The young people at the beach recoil in horror at the sight of the Naked Truth, but her mirror reveals them partying at the beach in skimpy (for 1915) bathing suits. The mirror also reveals that the one woman from the congregation who followed the pastor is doing so because she loves him.
- Moral Guardians: One of the hypocrisies that the film calls out. In the medieval sequence, the people of the town completely freak out and lynch Gabriel after seeing the nude statue.
- Nice Hat: Ladies' fashions were pretty extraordinary in the Edwardian Era and the years after. Those are some mighty fancy flowers and tall feathers on the fancy hats of the women in the congregation.
- Nudity Equals Honesty: Yep, that's a naked lady as the "Naked Truth", holding up a mirror to show the hypocrisy of modern society. Censors were much less powerful in this era than they would be twenty years later after the imposition of The Hays Code, but Hypocrites still ran into a lot of trouble and was banned in several places.
- Nun Too Holy: Hypocrisy extends to medieval times as well, as the other monks in Gabriel the Ascetic's monastery seem mostly concerned with drinking lots of wine and eating hearty.
- Parental Neglect: In what has to be the most disturbing part of the movie, a child is shown to be dying. The Naked Truth then reveals that apparently the kid is dying because her parents fed her "Indulgence" (the box of candies is actually labeled "Indulgence") and let their son read a book called "Sex".
- Shameless Fanservice Girl: The Naked Truth, being all about truth and also being supernatural, does not care about being nude.
- Torches and Pitchforks: The people of the medieval town very quickly form themsevles into a lynch mob and kill poor Gabriel.
- Your Cheating Heart: The Naked Truth reveals that a man who is presently asking his girlfriend to marry him has been cheating on her with another woman.