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Simply the best
tprofumo22 July 2003
While some film critics disagreed in the late fifties, giving the nod to Murnau's equally brilliant "Last Laugh," this in my view is the crowning achievement of the German genius. Many polls rank it as the greatest silent film ever made and many rank it very high on the all time list of great movies.

The plot is melodramatic, the acting in places heavy handed, and the action seemingly non-existent, at least in the eyes of the "Terminator 3" generation,yet "Sunrise" is so captivating a film that it can be watched over and over again and deliver the same punch every time. In fact, like the other greats,including "Citizen Kane," you can probably get something new out of "Sunrise" every time you watch it, no matter how many times you watch.

Murnau takes barren sets and dark, hallow rooms and turns them into treasure troves of lighting and nuance. He creates something as simple as a railway depot or a big traffic intersection and makes it a story all by itself.

"Sunrise" stands today as one of the most visually fascinating films ever made. Murnau's cinematographers, Charles Rosher and Karl Struss, got an Oscar for their work and surely deserved it. Janet Gaynor won the Best Actress award for her body of work that also included "Seventh Heaven" and also richly deserved the prize. Her face expresses her inner emotions so perfectly that some of her scenes are achingly beautiful.

And the film itself received an academy award for "Most unique and artistic production," an award never given out again, maybe because no picture could live up to the standard set by "Sunrise."

The new DVD version being marketed on the quiet by Fox is marvelous, with a wonderfully restored print that seems just as bright today as it must have in late 1927 when the film was released. The DVD includes an interesting commentary option by cinematographer John Baily and no film is better suited for this, since it tells its story brilliantly with pictures alone, so the commentary option is not a distraction.

One of the great tragedies of the cinema in my view is that few people alive today have seen "Sunrise." They have no idea what they are missing.

This one ranks among the five best films ever made.
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If you only see one film this century...
benoit-314 July 2003
I finally got a hold of the 'Sunrise' DVD, which is only available in English-speaking America (for free) by buying three titles of the excellent Fox Studio Classics line and sending in proofs of purchase. I urge everyone to get this DVD either by sending your three coupons to the promotion or by dealing with someone in the province of Québec since it appears to be the only place in North America where this contest is void and one can buy it directly off the shelf.

I have heard about 'Sunrise' all my life but the closest I ever got to see a part of it was, as a quote, in Martin Scorsese's 2-DVD made-for-the-BBC lecture with illustrations 'A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies' (1995). Nobody told me the following:

It is a pioneering, overwhelming piece of cinema that still manages to move me (ME!) after I thought I had seen everything. It is a profoundly human film which made me cry for 15 minutes solid in its first part (a reconciliation scene that has to be seen to be believed). This film has more special effects than Terminator 3, all in the service of a thoroughly poetic, bucolic, pastoral, personal, contemplative, idiosyncratic, lyrical, late romantic and expressionist vision of humanity. Its love story, poignant and comic elements have inspired, in no specific order, René Clair ('Le Million'), Jean Vigo ('L'Atalante', 'Zéro de conduite'), Charlie Chaplin (all his subsequent films), Fellini ('La Strada', 'Nights of Cabiria') and even James Cameron ('Titanic').

The camera is extremely mobile (more so than in most of today's films, except maybe The Matrix) and the acting is superb. I finally understand why Janet Gaynor was such a big star and a big deal in her time. Her co-star George O'Brien would be hunk-o-rama of the month at the box office today if he was still around. Margaret Livingston (who she?) is also quite realistic as a believably enticing city girl vamp (of modest means) who tries to lure the hero away from his deserving wife.

The DVD has more extras than a Criterion issue, including a tentative reconstruction of Murnau's missing American masterpiece 'The Four Devils' (a circus love story) and the entire shooting scripts of both 'Sunrise' and 'The Four Devils'.

'Sunrise' is presented with two soundtracks: the original (mono) Movietone (i.e. optical track) anonymous composite soundtrack cobbled together from several sources (think Wagner's Siegfried Idyll) and a newly written and recorded (stereo) score with all-original themes, that closely follows the original in spirit but not in melody.

Both soundtracks try to add an intimate, poetic dimension to the film, which is subtitled 'A Song of Two Humans'. The music is an integral part of the experience as the film is conceived as a tone poem and, as such (my theory) is a kind of transcription for the masses of Schoenberg's 1900 string ensemble tone poem 'Verklärte Nacht' (Transfigured Night), a late-Romantic/early expressionist attempt to describe musically the 'truly profound and authentic' relationship between a man and a woman who have problems (the music follows a poem of the era).

Both soundtracks succeed admirably, my preference going to the new one, despite the original's polish, historical value and magnificent preservation. And that would be because, although in the silent era there was no stigma attached to accompanying silent movies with a score made up of public domain and rather recognizable pieces, as long as they fit the mood, times have changed ('2001, A Space Odyssey' notwithstanding) and this practice is more distracting than anything for a contemporary, moderately educated spectator.

Murnau had very highbrow ambitions but his film is totally clear and populist and made to reach the widest popular audience thanks to the incredible sums of money and artistry that Fox poured in the project. 20th Century Fox basically imported a genius from Germany, gave him a ton of money and told him: 'Make us a movie that will be the most prestigious ever made in this town and that will win us the first Oscar'. And that's just what he did!

Needless to say, that was a long time before Rupert Murdoch took over the Fox Corporation...
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The Greatest Of The Silent Films
FlickeringLight21 July 2004
I am a big fan of the silent era, especially the German expressionist films, and I would have to say that although there are many great silent films-- Metropolis, Pandora's Box, The Wind, etc.-- this film is my favorite. I feel that it is Murnau's greatest film. While it does not have the social implications of his films such as "Nosferatu" or "Faust," the cinematography, acting, and Murnau's unabashed belief in the power of love helps this film to rise above the rest.

The acting is sterling, with a 21-year-old Janet Gaynor looking incredibly similar to Drew Barrymore, and delivering a layered performance that reveals her character's strong but tenuous emotional state. I suspect that George O'Brien wasn't exactly what Murnau wanted for his lead actor, due to the lengths that Murnau went to to extract O'Brien's performance, but credit is due the actor for a performance which was brave at times and never ego-centric.

Murnau's use of symbolism and metaphor are suppressed compared to the standards of his other films. In this film their use is more to augment the story rather than actually being the story under the narrative. One example is the fish nets waving the wind as O'Brien returns home from his tryst with the dark seductress, a terrific metaphor for his entrapment and helplessness.

The story itself is one that can appeal to many audiences, as it has its fair share of melodrama, comedy, sap, and suspense. I saw this film with my 17-year-old nephew, who is your typical disaffected digital generation teenager, and he was awful quiet during the dramatic sequences and awful loud during the comic portions. It is amazing how I my own emotions were manipulated by the film without Murnau ever being manipulative or obvious.

The true star of this film, of course, is the cinematography. It is simply awesome. I have done a lot of work with old film cameras, and I have no clue how Strauss managed some of the shots he did. Murnau was one of the first directors, if not the first, to use camera motion during a film. This was no small feat in the days where the camera was not motorized and had to be hand-cranked. The camera movement is amazing. There is a shot where O'Brien moves through the swamp, with wet, muddy, and uneven ground, to meet the woman from the city, and the camera tracks along with him. It looks like a steadicam shot! No track could have performed this shot as it exists, and I have no explanation on how he did this other than that he must have suspended the camera from the ceiling of the studio. Shooting a swamp scene with fog and a full moon in a studio is a feat in itself. There are also other feats of cinematography. There are several shots where the city is the typical cardboard cutout, there are people milling around in the street, yet the trains and trolleys are obviously models. HOW????? If you are able to get the DVD with the cinematography commentary, it is well worth the investment.

To the king of the silents... 10/10
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A story of two humans.
boris-265 December 2001
SUNRISE is easily the greatest film made in the silent era. Murnau's story (or filmed poem, according to the credits) is about a troubled farmer (George O'Brien) and his secret girlfriend (Margaret Livingston) plotting to murder his wife (Janet Gaynor, possibly the sweetest, most likable adult character in film history!) The storyline, the dark, moody photography, the creepy sets (especially that swamp!) makes you think this will be a thriller with an unhappy ending, much like AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY. About half-way through the film, Murnau pulls such a daring 180 degree turn with his film, you'll shake your head, and will love it. I doubt film-makers today would try for such a daring move!

It is shame that Murnau died middle aged in 1931. Had he of lived another 30 years, and made films up until the age of Cinemascope, looser censorship, 60's technology, what great films we would have.
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An Artistic Masterpiece & Also A Joy To Watch
Snow Leopard2 January 2002
This is one of the few movies that fully deserves all the raves that it gets. Some movies are artistic masterpieces more to be admired than enjoyed, leaving the viewer feeling a little distant; other movies can be enjoyable and satisfying to watch, but with obvious artistic defects. "Sunrise" is a nearly perfect movie that is impressive in every detail, and it is also a joy to watch, offering moments of suspense and tension and other moments of humor and humanity.

The story provides a very thoughtful look at the importance and the fragile nature of human relationships. Janet Gaynor is wonderful as the wife - she is always believable, endearing, and completely sympathetic. George O'Brien is also good as the husband, and both of their performances are enhanced by director Murnau's use of their body language. There are also many minor touches in the settings and action that help guide the story and the mood, and it is all complemented by some fine camera work. The first time you watch the film, your attention is fixed on the leading couple, as you hope against hope that things will work out all right for them. Repeated viewings reveal many of the other fine details that make everything work so well.

The movie also has plenty of variety and a masterful structure. The first part and the last part are tense and full of suspense, but they sandwich a very enjoyable series of lighter vignettes in the middle, which make a perfect complement both to the story and to the tone of the movie.

It is very difficult these days to track down this movie, which is a real shame, and even when you do find it you generally have to make do with a rather fuzzy or defective print. But it is well worth the trouble, and "Sunrise" is highly recommended to any silent film fan or to anyone who can appreciate a movie made the way that movies ought to be made. It is not only one of the great masterpieces of the silent era, but is as good a film as any made since.
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A bittersweet symphony of life and love
The_Void16 October 2004
Before the movie starts properly, Sunrise professes that life is sometimes bitter and sometimes sweet, and that is exactly what this film is; a bittersweet symphony of life and love. Flamboyant German director, F.W. Murnau directs this film with a great love and precision, his direction in the movie is flawless. Sunrise features very little story cards, and it almost totally told with just visuals and music. This is a testament to Murnau's talent for storytelling; to portray a story without dialogue is something that all silent films have to do, but to tell a story without many story cards either is something that many directors would struggle to do. The music in Sunrise is simply sublime; it fits what's going on in the film to a tee, and also succeeds in making the visuals' power more potent. Sunrise is a groundbreaking film, some of the techniques used by Murnau to tell his story are amazing, especially for the time. Techniques such as his use of flashback have had a major impact on cinema as a whole.

And the film isn't just a technical marvel either; there is more than enough substance here. The plot isn't massively substantial, but it's the subtext that is important. It follows the story of a man who, tempted by a woman from the city, gets talked into murdering his wife. Him and his wife used to be madly in love, described by their maid as 'being like children', but the love has since stagnated and so the man is easily taken in by an offer from a beautiful to move to the city. However, when it comes to doing the act; he can't do, and so the film moves into following the two falling back into love. Like life itself, the film is never plain sailing and that seems to be it's central message, along with the fact that love is more powerful than anything that life can throw at you. And those are welcome messages in any film, especially one as brilliant as this.

Overall, Sunrise is a masterpiece. It easily ranks as one of the best, and most important silent films ever made and it is as brilliantly technically as it is on the substance front. A must see for all fans of cinema.
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A movie of redemption.
dbdumonteil30 March 2003
This Murnau work comes from the end of the silent era,and the miracle is that it needs nothing:it has everything.There are hardly a dozen of subtitles for a ninety- minute movie,and that's enough.The rest is the actors'sublime performances and Murnau's flawless directing. George O' Brien and Janet Gaynor do not speak,and however,we can hear them,with all our heart ,with all our soul.Their faces reflect what they endure,suffer and enjoy.Because this is not only a drama.Sometimes it turns to a true comedy.For me the scene in the church climaxes the work:the husband,desperate to a fault,and his wife ,who saw her sincere love atrociously betrayed ,"get marry" again and the priest's words will drive you to tears.

Unlike "Nosferatu",which took place in dark places ,and before "tabu" which would be an hymn to the nature -in every sense of the word,and probably the key to WF Murnau's entire canon"-,"Sunrise" is a diurnal movie,beginning with a meeting with the husband and his mistress at the break of dawn,and ending in the deep of the night,but the very last picture brings back sunrise,which epitomizes a new beginning, a new christening,a redemption.And the man ,crying and begging for pardon,it might be Murnau who thought his homosexuality was a crime -Nosferatu might be a metaphor as well,as the hero who abducts a priestess he's in love with in "tabu" -A true auteur opens up in his movies,if we can read between the lines.

Murnau was,along with Fritz Lang,one of the two most influential forces of the expressionism .
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Sublime, beautiful silent romance
Fredalba Road18 March 1999
Warning: Spoilers
Put simply, not only the greatest silent film ever made, but one of the 10-15 perfect films. Sunrise, to me, is the definitive moment in silent cinema. Not only is sound unnecessary, but so are words -- indeed, there are remarkably few title cards. Instead, Murnau trusts in the ability of his images to convey his story; he doesn't need words. The story itself is simple, archetypal. It functions primarily as a frame onto which Murnau fastens scene after scene of breathtaking splendor. In particular, the first shots of the City are dizzyingly complex and layered. Additionally, it's impossible to come away unimpressed by the Storm which tosses the characters during their return journey. Murnau is one of the few filmmakers, and perhaps the first, to truly embrace the possibilities of film as its own medium, rather than as a novelty or, alternatively, a convenient way to preserve a stage play. Though he is better remembered for other films, most particularly Nosferatu, Sunrise is his crowning achievement.
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Sunrise of cinema
egomacp1 July 2004
I have no words. This is cinema. This is not a story, this is not a plot. This is THE STORY, this is THE PLOT. Murnau can describe the human beings, the men, the women and the fast blind society. The woman of the city seems to be a post-modern nosferatu. She is a vampire, she moves like Dracula, she is like a witch around a tree. This film holds the tragedy and the comedy, the laughing and the crying. "Sunrise" doesn't belong to the past, but It belongs to the story, to the time. Sunrise, yes...the sunrise of the modern cinema waiting for "Citizen Kane".
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Cinematic Magic Realism
Preston-107 October 2003
I found this movie at the library the other day and I had to rent it after being aware for the longest time that it's the highest film on the Sight & Sound list that I have not seen yet. After seeing it, can I say that it deserves its honor? … I would say so, it's the polar opposite of modern film and that gets my interest since it reveals so much that cinema has gained and lost in 75 years. It tells a simple story while getting the most out of my reaction…as opposed to movies that utilize technology, over character and story development, even though this is a movie that has time to be showy and flashy with its beautiful city sequences. After seeing Abel Gance's Napoleon, a film from the same era, I would consider this movie on par for its technical angle, which I think is half the selling point for the critic's circles. It employs a magic realism that you will not find in any modern film today, a movie where you don't care if it takes them a minute to travel from the forest to the city….
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A Glorious classic Romantic!
Spirit_Bomb6 February 2017
This is the best romance movie I had ever seen and I've seen quite a lot. 80 years since it came out in cinemas, the acting is wonderful. There was almost no need for voice cards, I like how the director didn't like using them as going against what was normal and what his image was. Simple story and clean which a lot of movies try so very hard to do these days. I don't want to spoil much but the places in the movie are simply fantastic, I can't get enough of this movie personally. The true essence of Love is displayed and what more could you want? If you want to see one of the Best Romantic films, you must Watch this!
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crying on film
caspian197817 October 2000
A lot of film historians will tell you that Gone With the Wind was the first film that has the leading man crying on film. Clark Gable was said to be the first actor to do this.

This is not so.

In fact, George O'Brien is the first actor to do so. In the famous wedding scene, O'Brien breaks down in tears in front of his wife when he remembers back to the vow he took with his wife.

Sunrise is one of the last great silent films that is filled with so many wonderful moments which helped it win the first and only Academy Award for Best Silent Film.
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Aizyk7 October 2000
I usually don't care much for silent films, but this one impressed and touched me. There were a couple things that bugged me just a bit, like the husband's apparently dismissable propensity towards violence, but I won't go into detail about that because someone already mentioned it. The director was skillful and his sense of visual style was nice, especially in the shot from inside the barn where the husband opens the door, and beyond it, the fog is shown passing by some wooden wheels in the background outside, and also the scene where the woman describes the city as they lay in the grass, while above them, superimposed shots moving down streets are shown. The most powerful thing about this movie, however, was Janet Gaynor's performance. She was sweet, and touchingly innocent, but not in a gratuitous, annoying kind of way that tries to sloppily, unskillfully and patronizingly manipulate the emotions of the viewer. My heart ached for her as she joyfully prepared to go out boating for the day with her increasingly distant husband, not knowing what was really in store for her, and afterwards when she'd had her heart broken by the devastating realization that he had almost murdered her. The loving look on her face, slowly melting away as she began to sense something was very wrong during the scene in which her husband rows away from shore was a powerful one for me, and an example of the acting skill that won her the Best Actress Oscar.

George O'Brian's performance was good as well, especially when he was overcome with guilt. But did anyone else besides me think he moved a lot like Frankenstein's monster in certain parts? Not to say that it was any detriment to his performance however, since the movies with those stereotypical Frankenstein portrayals came later.
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A poem on celloloid
sb-47-60873728 August 2019
Undoubtedly this is one of the best movie I have come across- silent or talkie. And even more impressive since it is silent (though to be frank, I have seen the best movies came out in silent or early talkie era). What is great about it? The great acting of not only Gaynor but also O'Brien. It is unfortunate that with his caliber, he went into Westerns, in this he has played the role of a macho but very sensitive man admirably. I wonder why he wasn't even in nominations, Jannings of course was worthy winner. Second was the clear spark that existed between the two. They portrayed the role to exquisite perfection. The scared Gaynor of her husband and equally scared and indecisive - how to comfort her - O'Brien. The main aspect of course (along with selection of the two stars) was the Director. The movie, I came across in different areas - criticised for the length - but this isn't a story told - the story isn't very long in this - it is the poem that is made of it. And despite the small story - the poems are no less - probably even more alluring than prose. This movie proves it. The poetry starts from the beginning - the fade outs into different scene (for example the two lovers walking through road and imagining it to be a park of flowers) - or even the street scenes are the things to be cherished - when in trouble - the chaotic scene and then when things settled the vehicles seemed to be stream lined and then of course the kissing at the middle of the road - it might signify the society being jealous/ disapproving of someone else's bliss. Like a poem, every stanza has some thing of beauty and even the pig scene - despite being back in love and forgiven, the man has to be macho, and play men's game, rather than dance with her - and the masochism, he tries to show when coerced to dance (by another man) - till the wife is able to rein in, and bring the inner tenderness out. There might be some actions, but that is the classic sonata composition - allegro, adagio, Scherzo and Alegro (the storm) - followed by an additional romantic finale. Undoubtedly one of the best movies ever made.
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A work of art about the permanence of love and the temporary nature of lust...
AlsExGal10 October 2010
Warning: Spoilers
... and yes, I have plot spoilers in this review, but you could read the plot of Sunrise from beginning to end and have taken away no more versus actually seeing it as you could substitute the reading of a menu with actually enjoying a fine meal. In other words, plot is not the point of this film at all.

There is nothing special about the story behind this movie. A farmer (George O'Brien) is attracted by a vamp from the City (Margaret Livingston) who seduces him and has gradually had him selling his farm off piece by piece to provide presents for her. She finally suggests that he leave his failing farm altogether and return with her to the City. However, to complete the plan, he will need to drown his country wife(Janet Gaynor). A few days later, the farmer takes his wife for a trip to the city. As he rows his wife across the lake that is between their village and the trolley, he comes close to doing away with her. However, always a reluctant partner in this plan, he recoils in horror and rows the boat to the shore, his wife unharmed. The wife, having seen the murder in her husband's eyes, jumps onto the trolley to the city with her husband in hot pursuit. Once in the city, he reassures her that he would not harm her, and he begins to feel real remorse for his previous actions. They slip into a church and watch a wedding ceremony going on, and in doing so begin to reconnect to one another. By the end of the day, they've fallen in love again; the man remembering why it was he married his wife in the first place. However, when a storm breaks out on their way back across the lake, the wife falls out of the boat. The farmer goes for help and the entire village looks for her, hoping she has not been drowned in the storm. This rather simple story could easily have been transformed into a hackneyed melodrama. What makes Sunrise a great film, though, is the majesty and tenderness F.W. Murnau managed to give it without the benefit of audible conversation.

Particularly intriguing is the set of the unnamed "City". If the traffic patterns shown in this movie are indicative of traffic laws in the 1920's it's a wonder anybody made it to or from work alive. Early autos, horse-drawn carriages, and people all chaotically race through the streets without rhyme or reason. Also wondrous are the night shots of the Coney Island-style amusement park where the farmer and his wife go for some fun before returning home as well as the view of the trolley ride and and the glide following the farmer through the moonlit marsh.

A little known fact is that Sunrise was one of the first feature films to use sound-on-film techniques, in which Fox was a pioneer. There were fully synchronized sounds of automobiles, church bells, crowds, and other effects. Unfortunately, "The Jazz Singer" was released shortly after Sunrise, and Sunrise failed at the box office. Time, however, has had a different judgment. Sunrise is still appreciated today as a whole motion picture experience, not just a temporary technical triumph that has faded as other technical triumphs take its place.
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KylePowell15 November 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Captivating to say the least. In the beginning, this film bombards you with plot and puts you to the edge of your seat. All while telling a magnificent tale of a dying marriage, adultery, plots for murder, and the rekindling of a forgotten love.

The acting was done very well. George O'Brien does a wonderful job of depicting a man broken by society and looking for a way out of the life he's built. Margaret Livingston also does well with portraying the "siren from the city" who, in the end, ends up exactly where she started.

In all, I believe the film was ingeniously done and was revolutionary for it's time. With film-making being a fairly new concept (Just over 20 years), and the fact that the first sound film was released the same year, this movie truly cemented itself as one of the best silent era films.
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A Universal Story
bkoganbing6 April 2008
Warning: Spoilers
In that first year of the Academy Awards when for the only time players were nominated for their whole body of work that came out in that period rather than for one particular performance, Janet Gaynor was so honored with the Best Actress Award. Besides Sunrise Gaynor was also acknowledged in the award for her work in Seventh Heaven and Street Angel.

But in Sunrise has any lasting importance it is because it is the most honored work of German director F.W. Murnau who succumbed to the lure of Hollywood and created this film as his first American production. Murnau did only four more films and died in 1931 prematurely in a car crash. Being a gay man, I'm sure he would not have found the atmosphere of the Nazi controlled cinema that would come to his native country very shortly. Unlike Emil Jannings who returned to Germany because of his language problems here in America with the coming of sound and who liked the new Germany, Murnau would not have found a producer like Joseph Goebbels very congenial.

There is no hint of the nationality of the leads George O'Brien and Janet Gaynor or the rest of the cast. It was deliberately so, I believe as Murnau was trying for a universal story about true love and virtue triumphing. Gaynor in both the silent and talking cinema nearly always played women of rural background as she is here. Her husband O'Brien is having a tough go on the farm and falls prey to a silent screen seductress played by Margaret Livingston. Her advice to just kill the wife and run off with her is met with horror. But it does prey on O'Brien's mind. Gaynor senses something wrong and becomes afraid of her husband for a time.

The story is a simple one, but the cinematography is mesmerizing. In fact Sunrise won another Oscar, the first awarded for best cinematography. The images created by Murnau of the city, especially the fair where Gaynor and O'Brien rekindle their romance will stay with you. And Sunrise has good special effects, especially the flood sequence.

George O'Brien was a popular leading man in the sound and early talking era. He first gained attention in John Ford's classic silent western, The Iron Horse. As the Thirties progressed he went down in popularity and was doing mostly B westerns. Ford always kept him in mind though, you might remember him as Captain Collingwood in Fort Apache and post commander Major Allshard in She Wore A Yellow Ribbon. He was also a foolhardy Colonel who gets killed by the renegade Cheyenne in Cheyenne Autumn which was his farewell film.

I was interested in the fact that Murnau made very little use in this film of subtitles, fewer here than in most silents. He preferred to let his cinematography tell the story.

And it's a beautifully told tale.
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Its influence is seemingly endless
laursene17 September 2004
Sunrise is a masterpiece, and its influence shines through in many later films. A couple come to mind very powerfully: Vigo's L'Atalante, another story about a couple who find each other, lose each other, and find each other again against the backdrop of a kaleidoscopic city; and Fleming's The Wizard of Oz, which has a similar conceptual framing - starting with monochromatic rural setting, moving to dazzling, dreamlike fantasy metropolis, and then back to a new dawn in the old rural setting. (I guess that means Janet Gaynor is Dorothy, George O'Brien is the Scarecrow, the city folk are the Munchkins, and the Woman from the City is the Wicked Witch of the West. But then, one can go too far with this kind of thing!) There are certainly more, and why not? Sunrise is a perfect example of what silent movies did so often and talkies seem to have to work like crazy to squeeze out: The illusion that one is entering a wonderful dream world. Escape, in other words, in the very best sense.

O'Brien was a big star for Fox in the 1920s, and several of his other firms are worth looking up as well (there's one I forget the name of where he plays a boxer). Gaynor is beyond perfect for her part, and in 1927-28, when she won the Oscar, she really must have seemed like the most powerful screen presence in Hollywood. I recently saw her in Street Angel, which was made about the same time, and she's equally superb in a quite different role.
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Sunrise is real scorcher of a film. It really does shine.
ironhorse_iv4 November 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Not to be confused with 1926 Australian lost film of the same name. One of the earliest, most influential romantic melodramas from the silent era, was 1927's 'Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans'. Directed by German Expressionist, F.W Murnau & adapted for American audiences from the novella 'A Excursion to Tilsit' by author Hermann Sudermann, the motion picture delivered a well told story of forgiveness and redemption of a unnamed couple travelling to the bright lights of the big city in hope to save their dying marriage. Without spoiling this expressionistic masterpiece too much, the movie appeared at the very end of the silent era and came only a few days before the first 'talkie', 1927's film 'The Jazz Singer'. Because of this, it became one of the first feature film released with synchronized sound effects using the Fox Movietone system, and incorporating an original soundtrack by composer, Hugo Riesenfeld. The film even incorporated classic music from melodists Frédéric Chopin & Charles Gounod. The latter happens to be the theme for the 1950 & 1960s television series, 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents'. So, that was kinda jarring. Regardless of that, the film is still, pretty 'silent'. It actually has very little written dialogue and very few intertitles. Most character interactions are done through facial expressions and body motions. This is where the movie really does shines. Both, George O'Brien & Janet Gaynor gave, very good performances despite Gaynor really fake blonde wig. O'Brien achieved the beaten, plodding walk of a depressed man by putting weights in his shoes, and covering his scruffy face with his hands. He appeared deranged and under an evil spell in the beginning of the film; only to transform from a monstrous figure into, guilt ridden, irrational to clean cut, reform leading man by the end of the movie. It's a huge improvement in appearance. I just wish, his character didn't still have murderous rage still boil within him. It was bit extreme, to see him, still act violently toward the unnamed woman from the city (Margaret Livingston), after the events, he witness in the city with his wife. I would like him to be more pacifism & gentleman like by the climax. After all, the message of the film is about forgiving. As for the unnamed wife, Gaynor's acting was heartbreaking. Her coquettish beam, slowly fades to sadness during the boat ride makes you felt for her. You just want to see her happy! By the end of the movie, you rejoice when you see her angelic smile return, even if you can't stand that her character too easily forgive her husband's faults. After all, he did almost murder her, and that was after he cheated on her and sold off much of her farm. If anything, the movie could had been a little better, if he sacrifice himself in the end to save her in the storm. Now, that would be very compelling end. Regardless, 'Sunrise' was still a great fable like, poignant story. Both performers deserve to win awards for their acting in this movie. However, Gaynor is the only person that got one. She won the 1st Best Actress Award at the very first Academy Award in 1929. Another award that the film won that night was for Cinematography. Indeed, cinematographers, Charles Rosher & Karl Struss did a good job. Their skillful breakthrough camera tracking movements fluidly and sophisticatedly move throughout the space, creating an unusual illusion of depth and vastness. Another thing, great, was the way, F.W Murnau & his film crew, use the camera to superimposition images. It was very effective for symbolism. Some good examples of that, were the scenes where the a dark, bobbed haired, sophisticated urban vamp, appearance embracing him like a ghost; the way, an intertitle looks like it's underwater, & where the couple walk through the city traffic, dreaming of the countryside. Its poeticism were amazing. Even if some of the effects are now dated & fake looking. It did influence a lot of future films. Another thing, that I like, is how all the sets, both exterior and interior were constructed to recede slightly in the distance, to produce further illusions of depth. It made the city look, much more larger than life than it is. Other techniques included placing larger physical objects in the foreground of shots, and having little people as figures in the city backgrounds. A good example of that, is the entertaining city fair and the marvelous wedding sequences. Additionally, the use of light, dark and shadows was sophisticated. It shows the different in contrast between rural and urban life. The moonlight, the swampy marshes, and the surface of the lake all capture the astonishing light of calm, somewhat mundane & depressing, mindset of the brain. While, the bright & bustle city lights are rhythmically overpowering, mesmerizing & highly sexual, metaphoric shows the extremes passion side of the heart. Only, by balancing it, can one be, morally sane. Its humanity at its best and worst. That's why I didn't care much that the movie's mood set was all over the place. When it start off, as a tragic horror, then morphs into something like romantic comedy with a loose pig, then a quite emotional drama by the end. Its might be a bit jointed, but it's still moving. It's the same way, a person might act. No wonder, why this movie was honor for "Artistic Quality of Production" at the Academy Award. It was still unique enough to gain viewers over time, even if the movie was a box office bomb when it first came out. Although, the original 35mm negative of the original version was destroyed in the 1937 Fox vault fire, a new negative was created from a surviving print. Thank goodness, because this come rain or shine. The film really does deserve the honor to be preservation in the Library of Congress's National Film Registry. It's one movie worth checking.
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Best silent film
Emmajoy9312 May 2016
After watching The circus in cinema class I chose to watch Sunrise: A song of Two humans because it had such great reviews and was said to be the greatest silent movie of that time and still is today, so I had to watch it. And I am very glad I did. I really enjoyed watching this movie, I thought it was very beautifully and it was a great story and told very brilliantly with it being a silent a film. It was very dramatic and sometimes kind of eerie. At times like when the husband is walking through the woods at night to meet his lover, and its all foggy, it kind of reminded me of a scene from the horror movie the Wolfman. I love that with silent movies the music always goes with the story to make the scene more eerie, or more happy and cheerful. I was kind of impressed with the cinematography of this film, There was a lot of different editing techniques used that I did not expect from a movie of this time. There are several times throughout the film where we see two different scene in one, we kind of see some flashbacks of thinking about killing his wife and he remembers his lover and kissing her and the scene kind of fades out to that then back to him. And we also see some flash forwards of him thinking about drowning his wife. I thought it was kind of funny the way they made it look like they are just all happy in love again and it seems like they are walking in a beautiful meadow but really they are just still walking in the street and cause a traffic jam. We do even hear a little bit of sound in this silent film besides just the music we hear some church bells. This movie had everything drama, a little bit of horror, a little bit of humor, a love story. This was a really great a film and I can see why its rated as one of the best silent films.
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Sunrise- A Renewal of Love
lisamihalik4 November 2015
Warning: Spoilers
As a person only used to watching films in colour and with sound it was quite a different challenge to sit and voluntarily watch a black and white silent movie.

I am so glad that I did. I found this film to be one of my favourites of all time. The lack of colour faded away to the back of my mind and was forgotten about once I began watching. It was the lack of dialogue that was the biggest challenge but ultimately it was the lack of words that forced me to use my eyes and truly pay attention to the actors and the story line.

The story of love and lust is timeless and the fact that the characters are nameless makes them more relate-able and you feel more accepting of them. I ended up feeling the emotions of the husband and wife. This is because they cannot use words and must rely on their body language and facial expressions to get their message across. They act with so much more passion than when they can simply use words and the tone of their voice.

The other element that largely contributes to the success of the film is the music. The orchestra used adds to the drama and emotion in each scene and sets the mood. The music also builds anticipation and calms again when things seem to be going better.

I truly could not look away until the film was over. Only afterward did it actually sink in that I watched a long black and white silent movie and I loved every minute of it.
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Where am I?
lionel-libson-123 March 2009
Murnau seems to be gaining a new appreciation among cineastes. I had just finished watching a beautifully restored print of "White Mane", Lamorisse's masterpiece, and tuned in TCM's Silent Sunday feature, Murnau's "Sunrise".

First, I must agree that his imagery is superb, a cinematic Atget.The downside was the plot. A muddled variant on Dreiser's "An American Tragedy". There seems to be a recent trend toward "drown your lover" films. The matter-of-fact aspect of the murder plot left me wondering about the seeming lack of humanity. Saying more would be revealing too much. Suffice to say, I was left to speculate about what constitutes a deal-breaker in a marriage.

The more confusing aspect was the sense that middle Europe was a suburb of Los Angeles. We drifted between the Black Forest , 1920 Berlin and L.A. Villagers evoked scenes from "Frankenstein"--not horror, but peasant life.

The most telling scene for me was the open trolley ride from forest to big city. It was a magical scene, moving through space and time. It recalled for me the similar ride in 1940's Philadelphia from Fairmount Park to Woodside Amusement Park.

Given the time in which "Sunrise" was made, it certainly broke new ground in imagery. Unfortunately, the narrative was More banal melodrama.
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The best silent film I have ever seen
Bored_Dragon19 November 2016
A beautiful, perfectly filmed story about love, passion, guilt, and redemption. In my opinion, his sin is unforgivable, but if you are able to get over that, you'll enjoy for sure. Camera, directing, acting, music, everything is perfect. The movie leans on German expressionism and it truly is visual work of art. This is the only movie in history to win Academy Award for Best Picture, Unique and Artistic Production, maybe because it was the single year that award existed, and maybe because no movies deserved it ever after. Besides that, it won Best Cinematography and Best Female Leading Role. The film keeps the attention and conveys strong emotions. This is the very best silent movie I ever saw.

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Glad to know this flick is SO well loved!
Joe-2808 July 2008
While cleaning out my desk this evening and organizing my film note papers, I came across my file on this movie and realized I had posted a commentary on it back in 2001. Well after logging on, I discovered that there are now 11 pages of evaluation and all speak quite highly of "Sunrise." Of course, I have always held that concept and have 'pushed' this movie upon everyone and anyone whenever cinema topics arise. My personal 'connection' with the film is that while a teenager (16yrs old) I went to see it at MOMA in NYC. Unfortunately, they accidentally failed to bring the second half from their Archives in Fort Lee. NJ. Suddenly, the screen went blank, the lights went on, and there were apologies. The Museum offered the audience tickets for a future showing of it. Afterall, it cost this high schooler a whopping $2.00 to enter the Museum back in Spring of 1968. So, I returned and finally saw it in full that Fall. Then, years later, getting tired of the poorly copied tape I had purchased; I called and called FOX about when it was being prepared for DVD. Eventually, *they* must have gotten tired of listening to me and actually 'gave' me the FIRST disc! Of course, it isn't numbered, but that's what they told me, I guess in order to keep me quiet! :-D Meanwhile, my connection with Silents has continued, have lectured at MOMA (1993 Bobby Harron Centennial), done various film festival showings/lectures, and written articles on the Silent Era.

However, anyone who knows me also knows what my favorite film is and I am very happy to read that others find "Sunrise" fine since the AFI does so as well in its ratings. Enough of my story-telling, since you are logged on because you want to either express your opinion or learn evaluations of the films posted by others and you definitely now know that my evaluation is A++, 100%, 10, and any other Highest Rating possible!
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Murnau IS Cinema!
PureCinema9 July 1999
This is the third F.W. Murnau film I've seen, and with Sunrise I'm absolutely convinced that he was one of the all-time masters of cinema, and deserves to be ranked among the greats. Murnau creates a beautiful, poignant film that expresses itself in purely cinematic terms... it's amazing to watch this film that has so much to say in so little words (there are only about 10 intertitles throughout the film). This, folks, is the sign of a truly great filmmaker.
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