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Share on Facebook. View All Photos. Movie Info Considered by many to be the finest silent film ever made by a Hollywood studio, F. Murnau's Sunrise represents the art of the wordless cinema at its zenith. Based on the Hermann Sudermann novel A Trip to Tilsit, this "Song of Two Humans" takes place in a colorful farming community, where people from the city regularly take their weekend holidays. He callously ignores his wife and child and strips his farm of its wealth on behalf of Livingston, but even this fails to satisfy her. One foggy evening, O'Brien meets Livingston at their usual swampland trysting place.
She bewitches him with stories about the city -- its jazz, its bright lights, its erotic excitement. Thrilled at the prospect of running off with Livingston, O'Brien stops short: "What about my wife? In his delirium, the husband agrees.
The plan is to row Gaynor to the middle of the lake, then capsize the boat. Gaynor will drown, while O'Brien will save himself with some bulrushes that he'd previously hidden in the boat; thus, the murder will look like an accident. The next day, the brooding O'Brien begins slowly rowing his unsuspecting wife across the lake.
Halfway to shore, he makes his intentions clear, but is unable to go through with it. As his wife cringes in terror, O'Brien rows to the other side of lake. Once ashore, she runs away from him in terror, as he stumbles after her, trying to apologize. Gaynor boards a streetcar bound for the city, with O'Brien climbing aboard a few seconds afterward. Upon reaching the city a renowned set design , O'Brien continues trying to make amends to his wife. They sit disconsolately at a table in a restaurant, unable to eat the plate of cake that is set before them.
My favourite film – Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans
Slowly, Gaynor begins overcoming her fear. The couple wander into a church, where a wedding is taking place.
Breaking down in sobs, O'Brien begins repeating the wedding vows, thereby convincing Gaynor that she has nothing to fear. Together again, the couple embraces in the middle of a busy street, oblivious to the honking horns and irate motorists. Anxious to prove to each other that all is well, the husband and wife spend a delightful afternoon having their pictures taken and "dolling up" in a posh barber shop.
They cap their unofficial second honeymoon at a joyous festival in an outsized amusement park. More in love with each other than ever before, O'Brien and Gaynor head back across the lake in the dark of night. Suddenly, a storm arises. Pulling out the bulrushes with which he'd planned to save himself, O'Brien straps them onto Janet, telling her to swim to shore. The storm passes. Washing up on shore, the unconscious O'Brien is brought home. But Gaynor is nowhere to be found, and it is assumed that she has died in the storm. Half-insane, O'Brien strikes out at Livingston, the instigator of the murder plan.
Just as he is about to throttle the treacherous temptress, he is summoned home; his wife is alive! As Livingston stumbles out of the village, O'Brien and Gaynor cling tightly to one another, watching the sun rise above their now-happy home. The film itself was also in the Oscar race, but lost out to the more financially successful Wings. Carl Mayer.
Dec 9, Janet Gaynor as The Wife. George O'Brien as The Man. Margaret Livingston as The Woman from the City. Bodil Rosing as Maid. Farrell MacDonald as The Photographer. Ralph Sipperly as Barber. Jane Winton as The Manicure Girl. Arthur Housman as The Obtrusive Gentleman. Eddie Boland as The Obliging Gentleman. Gibson Gowland as Angry Motorist. Gino Corrado. Sally Eilers. Bob Kortman. Sidney Bracey as Danchall Manager. Phillips Smalley as Head Waiter.
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Jan 22, Full Review…. May 8, Full Review…. View All Critic Reviews Jan 10, Director F. Murnau made an outstanding film in 'Sunrise', which is an emotional drama and real visual treat. The story of temptation is simple and stripped down to the point of not even having character names for the principals The Man, The Wife, and The Woman From the City , but the theme is timeless, and Murnau wastes no time getting to the tension. The simplicity may bother some, but I liked how tight the storytelling was.
We really don't know which way the story is going to go, and at different times find ourselves horrified, touched, and even tickled during moments of levity. Janet Gaynor delivers a strong performance, and demonstrated real range to earn the first ever Oscar for best actress. She is very cute in the scenes where she's playful, such as when she dances with her husband. George O'Brien and Margaret Livingston are solid too, but what makes the film truly special is how far ahead of its time it was in its direction.
Sunrise Movie Review & Film Summary () | Roger Ebert
Murnau uses overlays, imagined sequences, interesting camera angles, and flat-out beautiful cinematography from Charles Rosher and Karl Struss, and there are brilliant shots in the moonlight, on the water, and in the city. Poignant and artistic, this is one not to miss. Antonius B Super Reviewer. Apr 07, At his mistress's command, a man takes his wife on a boat ride in order to kill her, but he decides against it, and they have a lovely afternoon together.
We know early that the man isn't going to kill his wife, so there isn't any suspense on the boat, and what follows lacks any real, compelling conflict. Jim H Super Reviewer. Jun 23, The ultimate silent film, released right after the talkies had already become a reality. Featuring some splendid superimpositions and impossible camera movements, this wonderful movie is both an impressive technical achievement and a beautiful story about love.
Carlos M Super Reviewer. Dec 10, So they go to the city together instead. It's far more difficult to tell you what happens next, because it looks so ridiculous written down. Their day trip turns into a symbolic remarriage: there's tears, dancing and a piglet running loose in a nightclub. At the end, there's danger, then tragedy strikes … and by that point I'm usually whimpering quietly on the sofa. It's worth saying that the film isn't modern or cool in the slightest, and I don't care. The two lead characters with their daft, bumpkinish ways are old-fashioned people from an old-fashioned place, and they're completely out of their depth in the city.
The humour is gentle rather than wisecracking. It's sentimental — which is a dirty word these days, but cynicism doesn't make anyone happy. What Sunrise wants to achieve is universality, which is the reason for the portentous subtitle, and why none of the characters has a name. The first intertitle reads: "This song of the Man and his Wife is of no place and every place; you might hear it anywhere, at any time. If you hadn't guessed already, Sunrise is a silent film. It was the same year as The Jazz Singer , which I see as a far inferior movie. The US release of Sunrise was saddled with a Movietone soundtrack — music mostly, some animal noises and car horns, but no dialogue — arguably, 21st-century viewers will find the sound the most dated thing about the film.
Producer William Fox had given the newly imported German director FW Murnau free rein for this film, and the result was beautiful sets lit from all angles making it easier for the heavy hand-cranked cameras to be pushed around. Murnau's films are gorgeous, and Sunrise is no exception. Its luscious black-and-white photography and sweeping camera moves haven't aged a bit. The best way to watch Sunrise is with no soundtrack, only live music, as was done on its release in Europe.
This film is precious, not least because it belongs to a lost time — it's one of the silent era's final hurrahs. At its close you will have forgotten — unless you have a heart of stone — the flashy allure of Woman from the City and fallen for Man, Wife and their rustic charms. Likewise, you couldn't watch this film and wish it were made in colour, with talking bits. It's perfect as it is, a monochrome fairytale. Topics FW Murnau My favourite film.