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Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)
Genre: Silent Drama Crime Romance
Starring: George O'Brien (Fort Apache • She Wore a Yellow Ribbon), Janet Gaynor (4 Devils • A Star Is Born)
Overview: A man is convinced by his mistress to kill his wife in a boating accident. While off on the water, the man finds it hard to go through with the deed, instead finding in his wife what had been lost.
Having moved away from the intensive silent film study that I had undertaken a year or so ago, I feared that perhaps I could not shift my paradigm so quickly back to an age without sound and appreciate the silence as I had when my study was at its height.
As I watched, I wondered how I ever could have forgotten how much I loved the silent era, how much I mourned the early days of talkies for worsening film, and most of all, how I should rarely doubt my favorite silent film director, F.W. Murnau.
Given that 1927 was a fervently agreed up apex of filmic perfection for the silent era, anyone interested in exploring Sunrise as a 'first silent' would be getting a proper representation in excellence of the time. Innovative technical advances don't go unnoticed, from double exposures and rear projection to artistic montages and impressive sets, Murnau again proves his mastery at storytelling.
What begins as a tale of a man's 'cheatin' heart' is told in poignant perspectives. We understand the feelings of everyone involved: the man, the mistress, and the wife. When the mistress suggests that the husband run away with her to the city, it quickly leads to the exploration of murder as a way to solve the problem. Sunrise then takes us through valleys and mountains of raw emotion, twists and turns, and even a cute little drunk piglet at the fair.
How do all these themes come together without clashing? Invest 90 minutes to find out. You won't regret it.
Performance: 8 Cinematography: 9 Script: 7 Plot: 8 Mood: 9
Overall Rating: 82% (Wake Up To A New Day)
Murnau's Sunrise makes inspirational waves, both in the way his dramatic plot takes us to extremes of emotion while still using well known devices such as irony to tell his hero's story. All to say it's no surprise that this film's made the list of the Top 250 on IMdb. This is classic storytelling, and though old, genuinely original.