Thursday, April 5, 2012
Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans
Sunrise - A Song of Two Humans (Limited Edition)
#82 on the 2007 AFI 100 Best American Movies
Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans, also known as Sunrise, is a 1927 American silent film directed by German film director F. W. Murnau. The story was adapted by Carl Mayer from the short story "Die Reise nach Tilsit" ("A Trip to Tilsit") by Hermann Sudermann.
Sunrise won an Academy Award for Unique and Artistic Production at the first ever Academy Awards ceremony in 1929. In 1937, Sunrise's original negative was destroyed in a nitrate fire. A new negative was created from a surviving print. In 1989, this film was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in their National Film Registry. In a 2002 critics' poll for the British Film Institute, Sunrise was named the seventh-best film in the history of motion pictures.
In 2007, the film was chosen #82 on the 10th anniversary update of the American Film Institute's 100 Years... 100 Movies list of great films. Sunrise is one of the first with a soundtrack of music and sound effects recorded in the then-new Fox Movietone sound-on-film system. Much of the exterior shooting was done at Lake Arrowhead, California.
* George O'Brien as The Man (Anses)
* Janet Gaynor as The Wife (Indre)
* Margaret Livingston as The Woman From the City
* Bodil Rosing as The Maid
* J. Farrell MacDonald as The Photographer
* Ralph Sipperly as The Barber
* Jane Winton as The Manicure Girl
* Arthur Housman as The Obtrusive Gentleman
* Eddie Boland as The Obliging Gentleman
Sunrise was made by F. W. Murnau, a German director who was one of the leading figures in German Expressionism, a style that uses distorted art design for symbolic effect. Murnau was invited by William Fox to make an Expressionist film in Hollywood.
The resulting film features enormous stylized sets that create an exaggerated, fairy-tale-like world; the City street set alone reportedly cost over US$200,000 to build and was re-used in many subsequent Fox productions including John Ford's Four Sons (1928). Murnau manages to use a subtle technique of animal and plant imagery as an important tool to indicate the mood or tone in a particular scene and accent the deconstruction of generic dichotomies.
Titles are used sparingly in this film; in Germany, Murnau had made The Last Laugh (1924) contains only one title card (to explain the ending). In Sunrise, there are long sequences without titles, and the bulk of the story is told through images in a similar style. Murnau makes extensive use of forced perspective throughout the film. Of special note is a shot of the City where one can see normal-sized people and sets in the foreground and little people in the background along with much smaller sets.
The film contains groundbreaking cinematography (by Charles Rosher and Karl Struss), and features some particularly impressive tracking shots that influenced later filmmakers. The film contains the longest continuous tracking shot ever made up to that point: over four minutes in one take. These innovations have led some to call it the Citizen Kane of American silent cinema.
The lack of names contributed to its feeling of symbolism. Veit Harlan compared his German remake Die Reise nach Tilsit (1939), pointing to the symbolism and soft focus of Sunrise he claimed that it was a poem, whereas his realistic Die Reise nach Tilsit was a film.