Tuesday, May 18, 2010

190. Sunrise : A Song of Two Humans

Sunrise : A Song of Two Humans (1927)

Director: F.W. Murnau

Starring: George O'Brien
Janet Gaynor
Margaret Livingston

IMDb Rating: 8
My Rating: 8.5

"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."

It's the summer time and love, rather lust, is in full bloom. A woman from the city (Margaret Livingston) and a local country-side farmer (George O'Brien) are having an affair. The woman desperately wants the farmer to leave his wife and run away with her. So she proposes that he murder his wife (Janet Gaynor). The farmer and his mistress work out a plan to make the murder look like an accidental drowning. The next day the farmer informs the wife that they are going to go on a date across the river. When the man gets the opportunity to push her overboard, he backs out, and his wife senses that something is wrong. When they arrive on shore the wife attempts to escape into the city, but her husband catches up to her. As the day progresses their love for each other starts to resonate again and their day in the city gets grander and more romantic with every new stop. While they are heading home in the boat, a terrible storm comes upon them and could ruin the two's newly found love.

Sunrise actually caught me by surprise. The silent film genre is not one of my favorites to be honest. I love great dialogue in film, and silent films of course do not have that. However, this film succeeds in my book even with no vocal dialogue. The feature that was most apparent for me was the gorgeous imagery. The best example of this being the scene where the farmer and his wife go to the fair on their day out. It was not your typical fair as it felt like it was nine hundred feet tall and could only exist in your imagination. Also the music by Willy Schmidt-Gentner gives this film a lyrical voice. The score never appears overbearing, but serves as an almost guide for the characters actions and expressions. The cinematography and score come together to bring us a very good technical film, especially by 1927's standards.

I also really enjoyed the story. It's remarkably well structured and never once heads down the avenue's of cliche or predictable. I found myself actually never really trusting the husband, and being very much in the same mindset of his bride. As the farmer earns back his wife's trust, he does so with the viewer as well. Without giving anything away, the film's conclusion is rather poetic as sometimes changing your actions can still bring up original intentions. Just as much as the visuals pull you into the film, so will it's story.

One of the things that is great about this little project of mine is instances like these. If it hadn't been on the list, I probably would have never seen this film on my own. It was nice to enjoy a simple story, that when reflected upon at the end, had quite a great deal to say about love. Overall, I can't really say anything negative about the film. It's beautiful music and visuals make this film an absolute joy. It's easy to see why Sunrise : A Song of Two Humans is regarded as one of the greatest silent films of it's and any era.

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