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27 June 2011

[Silent Film Marathon] 16# Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)

Directed by:  F.W Murnau
Written by: Hermann Sudermann, Carl Mayer
Genre: Drama, Romance, Mystery & suspense
Runtime: 95 Minutes

F.W Murnau is known for great silent films such as Nosferatu and The Last Laugh, but Sunrise is simply one of the most beautifully crafted silent films ever made. Better yet, it is one of the finest films ever made. With Murnau’s outstanding cinematography in the beautiful sets, wondrous music and characters that are so simplistically golden, Sunrise is a milestone of a film. The beautifully crafted masterpiece is full of emotion and sincere smiles. It will make you laugh, it will make you sad –and if you’re like me, shed a tear- and even give you a warm smile in some places. Truly one of the most powerful Romance stories there is and because of its simplistic nature, anyone will be able to relate to what is happening. F.W Murnau is quite easily one of the greatest silent film directors there was and his directorial achievement with this film is off the scale. It’s been 84 years since this film was made and still holds the emotional and entertaining strength it held then today. Many people have put this as the greatest silent film of all time, which I would agree with but I am yet to see the famous Fritz Lang’s, Metropolis. The film is renown by film critics and right it should be for it’s impact.

We meet a husband and wife –whose names are never mentioned-, who clearly have troubles with their relationship. We see the husband leaving the house to meet another woman who wants him to come to the city with her. The story gets tense 10 minutes into the film when she says to the man about his wife, “Couldn’t she drown?” As the letters melt away the man thinks about it and the vile woman tells him what he can do. The next day, he and the wife go on a trip on the boat, the wife still unknowing of what will happen. As he is about to do it as his wife is frightened extremely, he stops and begins to row back to shore. The wife then runs fast as she can in complete fear. The man chases her shouting “don’t be afraid of me!” He eventually meets up with her and from there onwards, it is a journey of their relationship recovering. Much like the title describes, it is a song of two humans.
The Woman seducing him to come with her to the city.
Some of the finest acting of the Silent Film Era
Now this really astounded me. The wife and husband have very few intertitle cards used and their talking is usually only seen rather than written. The emotion brought across by the actors, Janet Gaynor and George O’Brian was just amazing. The most emotional scene would have been when they visit the church and a wedding is taking place. Without words, you know exactly what is going through their minds and how the man says “Forgive Me!” and how the tears that ran down his face just created an emotionally touching moment. It is touching because the characters are simplistic and you can truly understand the agony and broken relationship.  The film has some of the finest acting I’ve seen in any silent film and does not fail to impress. The woman who tries to get the man to come to the city with her is a character that basically the audience would booed at and she was beautifully acted by Margaret Livingston.
So much thought went into every scene of this movie. The film is beautifully shot, full of gorgeous sets and is full of bits of German expressionism. The whole film is picturesquely delightful and not only is the visuals simplistically beautiful, the direction, acting and music is divine too. Some of the fine examples of the film’s beautiful imagery is the ending of the film [not a spoiler]. The film ends with the sun rising over the hills and is an extremely picturesque ending.

The music was equally a triumph and created a melodic mood for each scene, and was sometimes used to express a voice being made. I cannot give an example as it would spoil the film. One thing I like in a silent film is the music, and very few get it completely correct. Sunrise has excellent music that certainly plays out well among the film. The film is also based on the novel from Hermann Sudermann so here is a fine example of a great book-to-movie adaptation. The film took home awards in 1929 –which would have been one of the earliest award ceremonies for films- and won best picture, best cinematography and for Gaynor’s performance, best actress in a leading role.

Not enough major film critics today have brought this to their attention and they truly should. The film currently holds 97% at Rotten Tomatoes with only one of the 39 critics giving it a negative score. I really don’t know what to say because this film is phenomenal and I don’t see how a top critic can hate this. Sunrise was one of the last films F.W Murnau ever made, and died only four years after this film at the age of 42. It is a pity he died so young for his career could have ventured on into the world of sound. Sunrise was made in Hollywood and Murnau brought his German Expressionism with him in this gorgeously filmed production.

Another thing the film is, is one of the few Blu-Ray preserved silent films. Along with Metropolis the film has been remastered into Blu-ray. Although it seems like it wouldn’t make the film look nicer, it would. All the scrapes and jittering removed and improved colour toning will make it better. It is nice to think that it is now backed up onto Blu-ray and that the film will be remembered just a little bit more.  Overall Sunrise is a gorgeously produced film, full of realism, sincere emotion and a touching story that reaches very far.  It is by far one of the greatest films of the silent era and even holds out as one of the best of all time. Film fans new or old are going to love this film and are in for an experience to remember. The film is a cinematographic masterpiece.
My Rating: 10/10

1 comment:

  1. Amazing review man..I will bookmark this and check it out when I can.



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