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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