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2015/Screening #1: Sunrise (1927) – 95 min.

sunrise-1927-poster

In this melodrama a farmer is forced to choose between a seductive it girl from the big city and his simple and innocent country wife.

Sunrise was German filmmaker F.W. Murnau’s (“Nosferatu”; “The Last Laugh”) first of four American films before his tragic death in a car accident in 1931.

Producer William Fox (founder of Fox Film that became a part of nowadays 20th Century Fox which presently is owned by Rupert Murdoch) granted Murnau maximum artistic freedom for this film that brought his studio a lot of prestige, but poor revenues.

The film received three Oscars at the first ceremony of the Academy Awards in 1929. The categories at that time were a bit different, but would nowadays approximately equal for Best Picture, Best Actress in a Leading Role (Janet Gaynor as the farmer’s wife) and Best Cinematography (Charles Rosher and Karl Struss). The film furthermore received one Oscar nomination for Best Art Direction (Rochus Gliese).

Murnau: “I think films of the future will use more and more of these ‘camera angles’, or, as I prefer to call them, these ‘dramatic angles’. They help photograph thought.”

IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0018455/

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11 responses to “2015/Screening #1: Sunrise (1927) – 95 min.

  1. Yui ⋅

    One of the major characteristics that the movie “Sunrise” has, is the music. Since the movie is a silent film and there is no spoken dialogue, it seems that the music, despite the low quality of the sound, plays a significant role as it creates mood and drives the audience’s emotions. For instance, when the farmer tries to kill his wife by throwing her off the boat, the music which provokes suspicion gets louder as he slowly approaches her.
    Another one is a technique of having two images on the screen at the same time. During a scene transition, the previous scene disappears gradually while a new image appears on the screen. Although the combination of the images does not look smooth or fluid as it is in modern movies, it still contributes distinctive traits to the movie back in time when this movie was released.
    The last one is an intertitle. Each of them has a characteristic and it conveys character’s dialogue and descriptions in certain scenes. Especially at the very end, the way the text “FINIS” appears on the screen is interesting, it looks like the sun rises from the bottom of the screen as if it refers to the title “Sunrise”.

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  2. Reggie ⋅

    The “Sunrise” is the first silent movie that I’ve watched that’s been over 10 mins long. I was surprised that I was actually able to pay attention for the whole 95 mins. I especially like how the movie was able to convey the demeanors of characters. Everyone had very defined personalities and rolls. The music coupled with over exaggerated body language was surprisingly able to tell a story of a confused husband torn between a selfish city girl and faithful wife. In my opinion even if they had not added the short narratives here and there. It still would have been easily understandable story. Silent films remind me of the origin of how movies still use music to this day to express the mood of the scene. How one can use slow pace music for sad scenes and fast pace for actions scene. I believe if it hadn’t been for silent films, the use of music in movies would still be more along the lines of how its use in musical. Music would be as a compliment to the actors singing, more than a conveyor of moods. Overall it was an assuming movie; my favorite scene would have probably be the part with the pig and the drunken server. Though it was interesting how the in the course of one day the husband went from being unfaithful and trying to decide rather to kill his wife or not. In the end becoming a loving husband that was distraught because he thought of losing his wife.

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  3. Sandra ⋅

    I found the film Sunrise unexpectedly amusing, there is no color, no spoken dialog and on top of that it is was produced about 90 years ago, needless to say I did not walk in to the screening with high expectations. The camera work and editing seemed exceptionally modern and up to date with current standards, something that really impressed me. And the music managed exceptionally well to set the moods for each scene, I even found myself jumping up from my seat during the jealousy scene in the barber shop when the man cuts the flowed from the suitors jacket.
    As a modern woman I found it hard to connect with any of the female characters, obedient or wild both desiring a seemingly mentally unstable man who considers murdering his wife. The only explanation I can give myself to why the wife forgives her husband at all can only be “Stockholm syndrome”. However I am by no means saying that the film had unexciting story, it is more center around the man and his choice between the sensual, attractive, exiting city girl and the dull, innocent wife and films in the same nature can be seen today as well. Following the man in his struggle in deciding on what choice to make and later in to his deep regret and realization on how he divided from the good path in life then trying to build up his life (marriage) again just to in the end almost loosing what he was so willing to throw away in the beginning of the film, was very amusing.

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  4. Weni Chang ⋅

    How much forgiveness can a human being give to the other? Especially for a woman after being betrayed by her beloved husband. Sunrise: The Song of Two Human Beings, a silence film by the German director F. W. Murnau, has vividly presented the fable of moral through the simple story line. The complicated relationship between the husband and wife and the mistress is the highlight of the film. Throughout the performance of these three main characters, both dark and bright sides of human beings and the idea of moral are discovered.

    The film describes a simple moral fable. The husband from the countryside has met the mistress who is from the big city. The sourness mistress convinced the husband to murder his wife in order to move to the city with her. Sexual desires and glory of big city have wavered the husband’s mind, leading him to the road to ruin. It totally breaks the wife’s heart while the husband leaves her at home alone for the mistress. Mistress calls him out of the window, the husband then goes out with pleasant. What has been left is the desolate wife, holding the meal that she makes for the husband. Although the wife is in a huge pain being cheated, she cannot hide the happiness when knowing that her husband is taking her out on the boat. However, the murdering plan does not succeed. The wife escapes the countryside while being followed by her husband. And the adventured of this husband and wife begins.

    Throughout the film, several contrastive scenes used to emphasised the situation difference between the three main characters can be found. For instance, one scene that the husband and the mistress having a great time flirting with each other has made a strong contrast with the wife who has her heart broken and cries alone with their baby at home. Another one is after the murder plan exposed, the husband is eager to make up his fault. His behaviours suddenly becomes petty and low, which is totally different from planning to murder with the mistress and the fierce when he almost does on the boat. Finally, the film ends with a happy ending, which the husband finally releases that losing his wife puts him into a huge pain. The scene captures the mistress living in poverty, getting out of the countryside by herself. Since the film is presented in silence, facial expression of characters becomes extremely important. The vividly performance of the characters have helped the audience understand the story and feel the atmosphere in the film. All these contrastive scenes not only show the lifelike love triangle between the husband and wife and mistress, but depict the complicated, unpredictable, and dark and bright side of human beings.

    It can be said that the moral issue is the main idea of the film. There is no right or wrong while falling in love with someone. However, when it comes to hurting other people, it becomes unacceptable. The cowardly husband who is almost brain washed by the heartless mistress has exactly represented the contradiction of human morals. The crafty mistress symbolise the dark side of a person and the forgiving wife can be the tolerant kind of human being. In conclusion, Sunrise: The Song of Two Human Beings can be a great material discovering the idea of moral, class, and status of human beings in the society. Throughout the story, we will all come up with our own principles towards the issue of moral.

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  5. Mich ⋅

    To be honest, I am not a fan of silent films because I am biased to contemporary films, but Sunrise (1927) silent film has actually got my attention for full 95 minutes and it kept me watching all throughout.

    Since this is a silent film, the audience focuses more on the sound, i.e. the change of audio pitch to match the tension or the climax drop of the film, and the expressions of the actors. It helped me focus on the film visually, rather than try to understand what the actor has just said. I noticed that in the film, they made use of the sound of the bell. I think it symbolized realization. For example, it sounded when he was about to kill his wife on the boat. It was when there’s a huge change in the plot.

    Since this is a melodrama, it started off with a dark mood but the plot changed when the husband finally realizes that he still loves his wife, and they both get along and spent the whole day in the city.

    Considering the time when this film was made, I think this is an elaborated work. I am glad to experience this film with its original score.

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  6. Lilou

    When it comes to film, I am personally a big fan of the classics including silent films. Sunrise (1927), directed by F. W. Murnau, however, did not grasp me as much as I would have hoped, especially since I am a big fan of his other works; “Nosferatu” and “The Last Laugh”. Thankfully, the cinematography and set design managed to make up for the lack of depth that I felt was missing from the overall plot. It struck me very similar to Moulin Rouge, where the audience is dazzled by the aesthetic appeal and therefore removed from any intricate plotline. The most remarkable scene from Sunrise was the husband and wife’s grandiose date in the city. The amount of coordination between side actors, the effort that went into creating the set and dance sequence, for its time, was masterfully performed. I also greatly appreciated the actors’ prowess in Sunrise, as over-acting is unfortunately a common trait in silent films.
    I would encourage future Directors who look to emulate Murnau’s work to focus more on not how you can “wow” the audience visually, but instead focus their attention on how to interest their audience members with more in-depth plot sequences.

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  7. tuf15107

    Personally, I did my best to keep an open mind while viewing Sunrise; reminding myself that the film comes from the era that was essentially the birth of modern cinema. With that said, there were definitely aspects I greatly enjoyed about the film, mostly the cinematography. I found the shots, even with the limited film equipment of the times remarkably well done. Composition standards had apparently already been developed, ones that are still frequently used in the films of today. That said, I didn’t care much for the plot and general flow of the story. There was little to no transition from the Wife fearing the Man after his attempt at murdering her to them having the greatest date in the City ever. The Woman From the City also had far too little screen time, giving her character little to no depth. I cannot say if the performances from the actors themselves were standard for the era, but I felt they were exaggerating their actions far too much. These issues I find inexcusable, as these are problems that cannot be blamed on the technology, as they are problems with the director. Overall, I did find the movie rather interesting as a look back to the early forming of the craft that I intend to use myself in the future.

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  8. liannagutz ⋅

    This was the first silent film I have ever seen and frankly I was surprised at how much I paid attention to it. The actors did a great job expressing their emotions in their faces and body language. The thing that I enjoyed most was the roller coaster of emotions that went on throughout the whole film. In the beginning, I saw the man as sort of a villain, plotting his death towards his wife but as the story progressed and he decides not to kill her he is seen as a changed man and is assumed to receive forgiveness and pity from his wife. The fact that he wanted to kill his wife is undeniable and seeing her forgive him so quickly and effortlessly was a bit off-putting for me. But nonetheless, the audience quickly sides with the wife and is accepting of the re-birth of their marriage. Just when I thought the story couldn’t get any more complex, the wife nearly dies thus causing the husband much grief. Suddenly, he learns that they found his wife and that she is not in fact dead. This twist ending really made me want to pay attention to the movie right when I thought the ending had already been stated. Overall, I enjoyed Sunrise and would perhaps like to watch other silent movies as well.

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  9. akems

    This was my first time to watch a silent film and I was amazed by the creativity of this film. I enjoyed it more than some of the films nowadays even without dialogs. It was also impressive with the fact that there were no dialogs I was able to fully understand the message and sympathised with the characters. I like the storyline however it was unrealistic that the wife was able to forgive him even though he actually tried to kill her. The scenes when the woman was seducing the husband was quite interesting too. It showed some unique effects probably at the time, where they see the big city over them. It looked as if they were looking straight into it. My favorite scene was the wedding scene. The wedding scene had the strongest message and it was the key point of the film. They both had the same impact and it refreshed the moment they both fell in love. It took them back to when they were madly in love. I really liked the close-up shots of this film. Without these it would be almost impossible to move the audience the way it did and show the expressions of each characters. I was really amused by the “dramatic angles”.

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  10. Hiro ⋅

    This film was the first silent movie that I have ever seen and surprisingly voiceless film did not make me bored. I enjoyed the whole story and the biggest reason why I enjoyed this movie will be the directors’ technique of showing scariness to the audience. It kept me exciting during the movie. Although the story itself is simple and not really a new story. One scene that I really liked about this film is the scene where husband tried to rescue his wife when their boat corrupted by sudden wind. In that moment he used glass which allows wife to flow on the water. This scene is my favorite because the glass he used to rescue the wife was used in the early of the film where he tried to kill his wife. This change of item’s role was unique and I thought it was an interesting fact when I noticed. I have one more scene that I really like in this film and it is a very last part where audience can see the evening sun. The sun was really beautiful and I was impressed by the beauty of the sun although this movie was taken about 90 years ago.

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  11. I’ve watched silent films in my time, but none of which I can remember a name- oh wait Phantom of the Opera! Kind of a hard one to match, but Sunrise had a lot of what the latter couldn’t offer. I really enjoyed the expansiveness of cinematography. The circus was impressive with just how packed it was. There was a lot of compositing where the actors were plucked out and placed over another film. Whether it was in my head or ears I thought I heard voices from the crowds; this would imply the silent film was mimicking diegetic sound- a first?

    What gets me about silent films are these close-up head shots with heavy focus on eye-lines. These are still powerful shots today, but the silent era used them out of necessity. I’d like to believe The Twilight Zone was inspired by the silent era- reference An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge.

    The story, however, was a only powerful because of how much time was invested into silent characterization. I feel like when you’re not inundated with so much information from color, sound, and better quality, you’re focus lies completely on a gray scale and simplicity of story-weaving. I like the romantic elements, but I don’t know if I can get someone to sit with me through 95 minutes of Sunrise.

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