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Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans

Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans(1927)

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teaser Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)

SYNOPSIS

In the countryside where city dwellers vacation, a woman of the city has lingered in the quaint village for weeks. She is having an affair with a man who is going behind the back of his wife. The man tells the city woman that he is hers, completely, and she tells him to drown his wife and come with her to the city. The man convinces his wife to go with him on a day trip across the water so that he can drown her on the way and say it was an accident but will he go through with it?

Director: F.W. Murnau
Producer: William Fox
Writer: Hermann Sudermann (original theme "Die Reise nach Tilsit"), Carl Mayer (scenario), Katherine Hilliker and H.H. Caldwell (titles)
Cinematography: Charles Rosher and Karl Struss
Art Direction: Rochus Gliese
Assistant Art Directors: Alfred Metscher, Edgar G. Ulmer
Editing: Harold D. Schuster
Assistant Director: Herman Bing
Original Music: Willy Schmidt-Gentner, R.H. Bassett (Los Angeles premiere), Carli Elinor (Los Angeles premiere), Erno Rapee (New York premiere), Hugo Riesenfeld
Special Effects: Frank Williams
Cast: George O'Brien (The Man), Janet Gaynor (The Wife), Margaret Livingston (The Woman From the City), Bodil Rosing (The Maid), J. Farrell MacDonald (The Photographer), Ralph Sipperly (The Barber), Jane Winton (The Manicure Girl), Arthur Housman (The Obtrusive Gentleman), Eddie Boland (The Obliging Gentleman).
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Why SUNRISE: A SONG OF TWO HUMANS is Essential

Sunrise isn't just an essential silent film; it is, in many ways, the essential silent film. Helmed by German director F.W. Murnau and brought to life by actors Janet Gaynor and George O'Brien, Sunrise represents, at once, both the pinnacle of artistic cinematic quality in the silent form and the end of an era as well. It was as if silent film reached such a height with Sunrise, that is was impossible to go any further so the world may as well usher in sound. That's a bit of an overstatement but only by a little. Murnau brings so much invention and effortless blending of realism and expressionism to the fore that most other films, silent or otherwise, pale in comparison.

Sunrise is filled with Murnau's signature optical overlays in which depth is built by adding layer upon layer to the scene until that which stands at even the remote ends of the screen are not only important but just as vital to the scene's power as that in foreground. From the first frames, Murnau begins his work. A poster of a train station advertising "Summertime" as "vacation time" dissolves into the train station itself, only this is no ordinary station. The trains in the foreground are miniatures, overlaying a station platform below, bustling with passengers, which looks out via a glass wall to the world outside, also alive and moving, as far the eye can see. Suddenly, we see a train race across the countryside, to the right, while another shoots up from a tunnel as if rocketing towards the sky, to the left. Murnau then contrasts this with a second shot of the vacationers themselves, at the crowded public beaches on the right with a shot of a ship, presumably a luxury cruise liner, to the left, overlayed upon a cityscape. Next, the screen fades to black and opens to a point-of-view shot from the stern of a ferry leisurely making its way across a scenic lake, filled with sailboats and dinghies. Aboard the ferry are urban dwellers, signaled by their tweed vests, walking sticks and boaters, heading for the shoreline where greeters await amongst the farms and cottages. Importantly, there are no optical overlays here. The countryside is presented as is. Murnau has taken the viewer on a journey from one place to another but also from one state of mind to another, all in less than two minutes of screen time.

After that extraordinary setup, the movie informs the viewer by way of inter-title that a woman from the city has lingered long after all the other vacationers have returned to their urban lives. When we fade in on her rented room in a cottage, her clothes are strewn about, a pair of high-heeled shoes rest atop a trunk and she bounces into the room sporting a bob and lighting a cigarette from the candle on a desk. From this slovenly room we cut to the owners of the cottage, downstairs in the simple, clean and bare dining room, eating their soup until the woman comes in, stares at the lady of the house, then at her shoe until the lady of the house leaves her dinner to polish the city woman's shoes. Finally, we cut to the outside as Murnau now takes the final step in this masterpiece of exposition. From the frenetic, multi-cut, multi-layered shots of the city, to the un-layered yet still multi-cut scenes of the lake, we now follow the woman walking from the cottage down the road, past some villagers to a small farmhouse, all in one, steady, uncut tracking shot. Murnau has wound everything down to this moment, both literally and figuratively, when the woman calls on her married lover and sets the story in motion. In all, from train station to farmhouse, about four minutes of screen time have been used and yet, in that four minutes, Murnau has accomplished more than most film makers do in their entire careers.

It is precisely this kind of artistry that was lost in the first years of sound as cameras were battened down and the movies were more concerned with filming two people talking - often awkwardly - than visually telling a story. By the mid-thirties, much of the visual fluidity of the late silent period had found its way back into film but telling the story solely through pictures was lost. Sunrise stands as the last great achievement of silent cinema before sound took over and silent film was relegated to a handful of masterworks by the great Charlie Chaplin, who stood fast against the advent of sound for years.

But Sunrise is essential for more prosaic reasons, too. It holds a place in film history unmatched by any other in that it won the first, and still only, Oscar® for Unique and Artistic Production. Another nominee in that category, King Vidor's monumental The Crowd (1928), stands with Sunrise as one of the best films from the silent period. The other award, for Outstanding Picture (later renamed Best Picture), went to Wings (1927), directed by William Wellman. Janet Gaynor would also win the first Best Actress for it (her award actually specified three films: Sunrise, Seventh Heaven and Street Angel, 1928). Murnau was not nominated for a directing award for his extraordinary work but its artistic success marked a bold debut for Murnau in America.

by Greg Ferrara

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teaser Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)

In 1989, Sunrise re-entered the public eye when it was selected for preservation and inclusion on the National Film Registry.

Its win of Best Unique and Artistic Production in contrast to Wings's win for what would become known as the Best Picture award has caused Sunrise to be used as a symbol of how awards favor commercialism over art, made plain by the immediate eradication of the Artistic award.

A remake of Sunrise entitled Die Reise nach Tiltsit was made in Germany in 1939 by Veit Harlan, the director of the controversial anti-Semitic film Jud Suss (1940). Frits von Dongen and Kristina Soderbaum played the married couple, portrayed in the original film by George O'Brien and Janet Gaynor. Harlan has said: "I did my version in Memel, where the story takes place. Murnau's Sunrise was a poem, but, if you'll excuse me, mine was a real film."

by Greg Ferrara

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teaser Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)

F. W. Murnau is known as one of the titans of German cinema but one little known fact about Murnau is that he was also a titan in stature. Murnau stood nearly seven feet tall at 6' 11".

Janet Gaynor said that Sunrise was the best film she ever made.

Murnau had done The Last Laugh (1924) using only one title card. He wanted to do the same for Sunrise but Fox Film Studios over-rode him. It was felt inter-titles were needed for American audiences. Murnau and Charles Rosher thus made the titles work for each use as if they belonged visually to the scene. For instance, when the vamp suggests drowning the wife, the title card "melts" into the black, as if liquefying and sinking into water.

Sunrise, though silent, had a fully composed score recorded onto the film itself using the Fox Movietone Sound-On-Film system. Sunrise was the first film to use this system.

Although the credits list the characters as merely "The Man" and "The Wife", the names Ansass and Indre were used on the set, and in the scenes where George O'Brien calls out to her, at the end, the astute lip-reader can make this out.

William Fox was so happy to have acquired F. W. Murnau, he introduced him to everyone as "the German genius."

Georges Sadoul in Dictionary of Films wrote that, "Sunrise was a financial flop from which Murnau never recovered; his remaining two films for Fox were entirely controlled by the studio. His independently made Tabu (1931) was his last film before his death."

The Oxford Companion to Film noted that "The film's visual distinction is greatly enhanced by using Panchromatic stock: it was the first commercially made film to do so. The remarkable city set gave Murnau the opportunity for unusual action shots; these, together with back projection and other special effects, demonstrate a masterly combination of the technical resources of Germany and Hollywood."

Memorable Quotes from SUNRISE

Opening Title Cards: This song of the Man and his Wife is of no place and every place; you might hear it anywhere, at any time. For wherever the sun rises and sets, in the city's turmoil or under the open sky on the farm, life is much the same; sometimes bitter, sometimes sweet.

Title Card: Among the vacationists was a Woman of the City. Several weeks had passed since her coming and still she lingered.

Village woman: They used to be like children, carefree... always happy and laughing... Now he ruins himself for that woman from the city - Money-lenders strip the farm - and his wife sits alone.

The Woman from the City: Sell your farm... come with me to the City.
Man: And my wife?
The Woman from the City: Couldn't she get drowned?

Wife: We're going for a trip across the water. I may not be back for quite a while.

Man: [to wife] Don't be afraid of me!

Arcade Barker: Hit the hole... make the little piggy roll!

Compiled by Greg Ferrara

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teaser Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)

F.W. Murnau had great success in Germany but it was The Last Laugh with Emil Jannings, made in 1924 and shown in America in 1925, that made Murnau a name in Hollywood. The Last Laugh, with no inter-title dialogue and inventive camera work and set design, wowed everyone who saw it and suddenly, Murnau became the most in-demand director in the film industry. William Fox, head of his own Fox Studios, got to him first.

Fox brought Murnau to America with the intention of having him make an expressionist film like the kind he made in Germany. Murnau himself wasn't about to argue. He wrote in 1928, "I accepted the offer from Hollywood because I think one can always learn and because America gives me new opportunities to develop my artistic claims."

For Murnau's first American movie, the director turned to Hermann Sudermann's Lithuanian Stories and with his writer from The Last Laugh, Carl Mayer, chose the story The Journey to Tilsit. The story concerns a peasant named Ansass and his wife, Indre. The two have a happy marriage until Ansass is smitten with a young servant girl who, wanting to be with Ansass, plots to kill his wife by drowning her. Ansass and Indre travel across the river to Tilsit and while there, renew their love for each other. Upon returning across the river (when Ansass had planned to murder Indre), the currents of the river overturn their boat. Ansass dies but Indre lives.

Mayer and Murnau took this basic framework and created the more expressionistic, symbolic Sunrise. By making the peasant girl a seductress from the city and making the rural area where the man and wife lived a hotspot for urban vacationers, Mayer and Murnau were able to form a full circle of give and take that makes the story of Sunrise so complex while remaining simple on the surface. The countryside attracts the woman from the city who falls for the country man. In turn, she wants to take him back to the city where she is in her element and out of the prying eyes of the villagers. The city initially means danger, seduction and sin but, in fact, once the man and wife actually go to the city, their love is renewed by the vitality of the city and all that it has to offer. Sunrise does not condemn one lifestyle over the other but rather, sees them both working together to mold the characters' ideals.

Finally, both Mayer and Murnau agreed that the ending of Sunrise should be different. They wanted the movie not to end with tragedy but with moral resolution. The vamp would return to the city and the man and woman would return to their home, alive and together as the sun rises. In this way, they felt, the countryside and the cityscape would take back their own. The world would once again be in balance and that balance, in the end, would be the resolution.

by Greg Ferrara

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teaser Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)

The filming of Sunrise was a mammoth undertaking. William Fox, who had so proudly introduced Murnau to everyone in Hollywood as his newest addition to the studio, gave him free rein to produce exactly the picture he wanted. Murnau was instructed to draw upon his creativity and produce a masterpiece. The director took the responsibility seriously and, as Janet Gaynor later recalled, took great care to express to his actors exactly what their goals were before shooting the first frame: "I'll never forget that first day when he called the three principals together - George O'Brien, Margaret Livingston, and me - and outlined to us his plan for the picture... He said that Sunrise was to be a study of the melody of life and that the melody was to be expressed by emotion. He wanted to take all the emotions - the loves, the hates, and the hungers, and even the little whimsical tendernesses - and blend them all together into one big rhythm."

For Gaynor's character, in particular, the actress recalled that Murnau told her, "I was to be the spiritual type, but not coldly spiritual. I was to be the kind of woman who is every man's dream of a good wife."

For the shooting of the film, sets had to be constructed from scratch. At Lake Arrowhead, in California, the rural village was built with gables so sharp and rising so high, they evoked a touch of the expressionism of early German silent cinema. To get the couple from the country to the city, trolley car track was laid down and a trolley car (one built to operate more like a car since there was no actual electrical trolley system on the set) brought in. It provides one of the film's most startling moments when the wife is running from the lake, terrified of her husband who has just tried to kill her, and in the middle of this idyllic environment, a modern day conveyance emerges from nature. It is this modern device that will serve to transition the story from the simple rural environment to the complex city, a city fully constructed for Sunrise.

Much of the city was constructed using false perspective. The film's cinematographer, Charles Rosher, explained that the floors "sloped slightly upwards as they receded" and that the light bulbs hanging from the ceiling were "bigger in the foreground than in the background. We even had dwarfs, men and women, on the terrace." Everything was done to make the city appear overwhelming including, of course, Murnau's use of dizzying optical overlays.

Every detail had to be perfect, so when the rain machines turned on early as the storm hits the city, and the set flooded before the dust could be seen kicking up, Murnau had everyone go home for three days until the set dried and they could shoot the dust kicking up first. It cost a fortune, but it was done Murnau's way and it worked.

The Fox producers, who were signing the checks for the Sunrise shoot, were none too happy that such money was being spent on sets and models that were being used for very short scenes, many of which didn't even contain the stars. A beautiful transition from the vamp looking at real estate ads back to the city by way of a swirling shield cuts to an entrance hallway that used real perspective as the camera moves down the long hall until it opens up to an elephant giving rides underneath carousels and roller coasters (the roller coaster was, however, a model using perspective tricks). The shot is short and cost a fortune but remains one of the most stunning shots in the whole film.

by Greg Ferrara

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teaser Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)

"One would hesitate to call any film the finest of its era," wrote William K. Everson in his influential book American Silent Film, "though as a climax to the art of silent film, one could certainly defend that statement if it were applied to Sunrise."

Released in 1927, Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans represents the artistic pinnacle of the cinema as a purely visual medium, before the sound revolution changed the way films were made. Everson explains, "It is a textbook illustration not only of what the silent film could achieve despite the lack of dialogue, but, on the contrary, what it could achieve because of it."

George O'Brien stars as a rural farmer adulterously involved with a vacationing city woman (Margaret Livingston). Under her vampish influence, he sells off the family farm and conspires to murder his wife (Janet Gaynor). When he is unable to drown his trusting spouse as planned, he follows her to the city. There, the naive couple rediscover their love as they explore the decadent pleasures of the teeming metropolis. During their trip back to the countryside, a storm capsizes the reunited couple's boat and the young wife is lost. The city woman and the townsfolk begin to suspect that the husband may have committed the foul deed.

The project began when William Fox invited German director F.W. Murnau (Nosferatu [1922], The Last Laugh [1924], and Faust [1926]) to America to make a project of his choice, with almost total creative control. It was common practice for Hollywood studios to recruit the finest actors and filmmakers from other countries' film industries, but it was highly unusual to essentially hand a director the keys to the studio. Murnau was also allowed to bring a handful of German artists to collaborate on the project, and what resulted is a fascinating synthesis of the German visual sensibility with American technical bravado.

The novella upon which the film is based, The Journey to Tilsit (from Hermann Sudermann's Lithuanian Stories, 1917) was a naturalistic fable, but Murnau and screenwriter Carl Mayer (The Last Laugh, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari [1920]) chose to transform it into a modern-day fairy tale. The location became indistinct. Murnau wrote in 1927, "It is neither French nor German nor Italian. It might be called modern, yet it does not comply with the modern standard of any particular nation." The characters were symbolic figures (The Man, The Wife, The Woman from the City) rather than individual personalities. Gaynor remembers how Murnau described her role, "He said that I was to be the spiritual type, but not coldly spiritual. I was to be the kind of woman who is every man's dream of a good wife."

"I'll never forget that first day when he called the three principals together," Gaynor recalled, "and outlined to us his plan for the picture. He was so terribly sincere, as he sat there trying so hard in his halting, though very perfect English, to make his meaning plain. He said Sunrise was to be a study of the melody of life and that the melody was to be expressed by emotion. He wanted to take all the emotions -- the loves, the hates, and the hungers, and even the little whimsical tendernesses -- and blend them all together into one big rhythm."

A crucial component of this fairy tale vision of human emotion was the visual style. Production designer Rochus Gliese created a series of drawings (heavily influenced by German Expressionism), and the filmmakers endeavored to faithfully recreate these stylized sketches on film. This involved the construction of settings tailor-fitted to the camera's perspective.

Although uncredited, Edgar G. Ulmer served as an assistant production designer on Sunrise and later discussed with Peter Bogdanovich his collaboration with Murnau. "Our sets were built in perspective, with rising or sloping floors; everything was constructed through the viewfinder. So what happened was, if you had a room, you could only take one shot in that set. If there were ten shots of it, you built ten sets of that one room; because the one camera eye was the point of the perspective -- the furniture was built in perspective. That's where the great look of the pictures came from; it gave you, of course, a completely controlled style."

In the scenes within the peasant cottages one can find beautiful examples of the stylized perspective and custom-built sets that Ulmer describes. The floors are steeply ramped in the background so actors' feet are visible, and the beds and tables in the foreground are constructed at oblique angles so their surfaces are visible to the camera. In order to have a lamp appear in the extreme foreground of one shot, an oversized prop had to be constructed. Such unusual tasks became a challenge to the Fox Studios prop department. "We found obstacles that my associates had not been called upon before to meet," said Murnau in 1927, "When we needed a smaller or larger wheel than the average we had to make it. When we required a bed that was not constructed according to the specifications of any special period, we had to make it. When we wanted a lamp that was not of the usual proportions, the technical department had to produce it."

This expensive approach was not limited to interior scenes. Swamps were constructed, cityscapes erected and, perhaps most impressive of all, a variety of sets at an amusement park, with the rides and attractions swirled together in unbelievably complex constructions (combining full-size sets and miniatures).

Cinematographer Charles Rosher recalled a scene in the metropolitan cafe, "All the sets had floors that sloped slightly upwards as they receded, and the ceilings had artificial perspectives; the bulbs hanging from them were bigger in the foreground than in the background. We even had dwarfs, men and women, on the terrace. Of course all this produced an amazing sense of depth."

"We forced Winnie Sheehan [head of production] to accept the idea and do all the sets in perspective," Ulmer said, "They had to buy Fox Studios in West L.A. because we didn't have enough space down on Western Avenue."

In one sequence, Murnau wanted to show a dust storm buffeting the amusement park just prior to a rain shower, but in shooting the scene, the rain machine began to pour before the wind machine had finished its job. Rosher recounted the episode to author Lotte Eisner: "'That doesn't matter,' said Sol Wurtzel, of Fox, 'we can do without the sequence where the dust heralds the storm.' But Murnau, whom William Fox had given carte blanche to spend all that he needed to make a spectacular, was implacable: he must have a dust storm first! 'But we've got three thousand extras waiting.' cried Wurtzel. 'Let them go home and come back in three days, when the sets and stands are dry,' answered Murnau. And he wouldn't budge. It cost Fox an enormous amount of money."

In time, Murnau's perfectionism began to test the patience of the studio. Gliese recalled that "Our producer took the precaution of staying with the company in New York for nine months, to undo the damage we did by overspending the budget. Otherwise we wouldn't have been able to finish the film."

In the end, the effort and expense were worthwhile. Sunrise was a huge critical success, and the film was awarded Oscars® for Most Unique and Artistic Production (there was not yet a Best Picture category), as well as Best Cinematography. Janet Gaynor won the Academy Award for Best Actress, for this film as well as her work in 7th Heaven (1927) and Street Angel (1928). Afraid that their luck might not hold out with another high-stakes gamble, Fox restrained Murnau's extravagance in his subsequent films, to the point that Murnau ultimately left the studio system and shot a film in the South Seas with documentarian Robert Flaherty (Tabu, 1931).

Producer: William FoxDirector: F.W. Murnau
Screenplay: Carl Mayer, based on the novella The Journey to Tilsit by Hermann SudermannCinematography: Charles Rosher and Karl Struss
Production Design: Rochus Gliese, assisted by Edgar G. Ulmer and Alfred Metscher
Music: Hugo Riesenfeld
Cast: George O'Brien (The Man), Janet Gaynor (The Wife), Margaret Livingston (The Woman from the City), J. Farrell MacDonald (The Photographer).
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by Bret Wood

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teaser Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)

Sunrise won the first ever Oscar® for Best Actress in a Leading Role for Janet Gaynor (also cited were the two films Seventh Heaven [1927] and Street Angel [1928]). It also won the first ever Oscar® for Best Cinematography for Charles Rosher and Karl Struss and that award remains to this day one of the most deserving ever handed out in that category. Finally, Sunrise was awarded the first ever, and still only, Oscar® for Best Unique and Artistic Production. It was also nominated for, but lost, the Oscar® for Best Art Direction for Rochus Gliese.

It also received the Kinema Junpo Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1929. The Kinema Junpo awards derived from the Japanese film magazine of the same name, started in 1919.

Sunrise has also been regularly considered one the greatest films ever made and in 2002, was ranked in the top 10 of the Sight and Sound critic's poll.

The Critics' Corner on SUNRISE

"Sunrise is a distinguished contribution to the screen, made in this country, but produced after the best manner of the German school. In its artistry, dramatic power and graphic suggestion, it goes a long way in realizing the promise of this foreign director in his former works, notably Faust [1926]... Murnau reveals a remarkable resourcefulness of effects; the playing of George O'Brien and Janet Gaynor and their associates is generally convincing, and the story unfolds in settings inexpressibly lovely... Murnau has a knack or a gift or a genius for broad effects. He can convey subtle meanings by trick photography or by treatment of backgrounds.... All of these things lay upon a story as simple as it is human." Variety, September, 1927.

"Superlatives grow pale... I lack the ability to describe the beauty, the poignancy, the happiness of this exquisite film. It moves, from beginning to end, a perfectly co-ordinated piece of drama - a heart-searing, ironic picture of life, love, and laughter done to brutal perfection by F. W. Murnau." New York Herald Tribune, December, 1927

"The principals in this gripping subject are George O'Brien and Janet Gaynor, who both give inspired performances... This picture is exotic in many ways for it is a mixture of Russian gloom and Berlin brightness...Miss Gaynor, guided by the genius of Mr. Murnau, gives a strangely sympathetic portrait of the Wife. Her hair is braided into a coil at the back of her head, and her big, bright eyes are never like those of the usual Hollywood actress. Margaret Livingston impersonates the City Girl with feline like watchfulness and purring caresses. There is not a weak spot in any of the performances and the incidents are stamped with genuineness and simplicity. You find yourself thinking now and again that it is just the sort of thing farm people might do on going to Tilsit...Mr. Murnau proves by Sunrise that he can do just as fine work in Hollywood as he ever did in Germany. A film Masterpiece." Mordaunt Hall, The New York Times, September, 1927.

"Although my admiration for Ernst Lubitsch is great - some would say 'excessive' - the title of the World's Greatest Director, according to my personal rating, is no longer held by him. It is applied to F. W. Murnau. Sunrise, to my mind, is the most important picture in the history of the movies." Robert Sherwood, Life, 1927

"Not since the earliest, simplest moving pictures, when locomotives, fire engines and crowds in streets were transposed to the screen artlessly and endearingly, when the entranced eye was rushed through tunnels and over precipices on runaway trains, has there been such joy in motion as under Murnau's direction." - Louise Bogan, The New Republic

"A near masterpiece...The story is told in a flowing, lyrical German manner that is extraordinarily sensual, yet is perhaps too self-conscious, too fable-like for American audiences." - Pauline Kael, 5001 Nights at the Movies

"I think the film was a stepping-stone, and Murnau was dead before he could touch ground. The art direction - by Rochus Gliese, Gordon Wiles, Edgar G. Ulmer, and Alfred Metscher - is phenomenal, and from a far more sophisticated film. The lighting (Charles Rosher and Karl Struss) and the camera movement are glorious. There are entire sequences here that see the medium altering. But the song of the humans is much harder to take and it stays obstinately in place. It's the scenario that is the problem: by Carl Mayer from a novel by Hermann Sudermann. What Sunrise needs is a grasp of character as subtle as the mise-en-scene. That would not come for years yet, and you can argue that it came in France and Japan more than in America. But don't doubt the impact of Sunrise on Hollywood - these are the first modern camera movements, carrying us toward desire." - David Thomson, Have You Seen...?

"If, on the verge of the sound era, the cinema needed a film of great plastic beauty to emphasize its visual heritage, then Sunrise was that film...Sunrise endures as a poem in pictures, the beauty and fluidity of which more than mitigate the essential kitsch of the story..." - Peter Cowie, Eighty Years of Cinema

"Murnau's most perfect film, though made in Hollywood, is entirely Germanic in style. Its style is dominated by fluid camera movements that are so masterfully handled that they also seem invisible." - Georges Sadoul, Dictionary of Films

"I can recall no other film in which the honest emotion of love has been conveyed so beautifully, and no other film that is such a beautiful entity in itself. Even the titles, which are infrequent, have a simplicity and beauty that parallels the film itself, and often they are presented in strikingly dramatic fashion." - Classics of the Silent Screen: A Pictorial Treasury by Joe Franklin

Compiled by Greg Ferrara

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