Sunrise

It's hard to write about a silent film that did something groundbreaking with visuals. Today's Movie, directed by F.W. Murnau in 1928, did just that. It did a lot of things that were new and exciting, but they are so commonplace now that it's hard to ever catch them. Ebert does a great job writing about the cinematography, and his essay is a good read.

Not knowing any of that before I watched it, I was surprised at home awesome this film is! I loved the story, and there were many scenes that were really impressive. The camera seemed so light and full of movement, which I'm not used to seeing in silent films. Sometimes (all the time, in my experience), silent movies can make people fall asleep or feel really tired. This sometimes happens to me, too. This movie really kept my attention and even with barely any intertitles, it was so easy and engrossing to watch.


The movie is about a couple, The Man and The Wife. The Man has a Girl From the City, who is scheming and dangerous. She wants The Man to kill The Wife, so that they can go live in the city together. The Man and The Girl from the City, think up a plot to capsize The Man's boat and drown The Wife. When it comes time to do it, he can't. They both end up heading into the city, where they spend a fun day together and seem to have fallen in love again. Spoilers start here, so skip this paragraph if you plan to see this movie. Once they get back to their boat, a storm kicks up, and the boat actually capsizes. The Man assumes The Wife has drowned, and frantically he searches for her but does not find her. He attacks the Girl From the City, but some fishermen who didn't give up hope find his wife. As the sun rises, she opens her eyes to see him. That's it for spoilers, I just wanted to summarize the whole thing for some reason (er, not some reason - because I don't know if many people will rush out to rent this).

It's a little cheesy, yes, but it was a fun watch. I liked the story, even though it wasn't the most creative or original. The whole sequence in the city was a lot of fun to watch. It really had no intertitles, but the acting was so great that you didn't need text to explain what was going on. I really thought the scene where they go dancing is cute - mostly because I loved the surly guy who was constantly fixing some girl's dress strap that kept falling down on one shoulder. Suddenly, the other side falls off instead of the one he expected. Angered, he pulls the other strap off, sick of fixing it, and the girl, shocked, slaps him. Amazing. There were just a lot of really funny little moments like this. It really helped give the movie something extra, since the plot is so thin to begin with.

Ebert spends his whole essay writing about how this is such an important silent film because of the camera movement. I really had no idea about that, but I noticed that the camera was much more liberated than other silent movies I had seen. I didn't realize that this was really the first one to do that, or that this was one of the last silent movies. F.W. Murnau, who also directed Nosferatu and The Last Laugh, is clearly a great director, with a great eye for film. Think of how big cameras were in the 1920's, and how they had to be cranked by hand all the time. Then, imagine many beautiful silent scenes, filmed in sticky mud or a raging sea - how did they take the camera to these places? Seriously, read Ebert's essay if this even sounds remotely interesting to you. He writes about commentary on the DVD that explains how the famous scenes were shot, and why that even matters. It's fascinating.

Since I am letting Ebert do the talking about film history and cinematography, I don't have much else to say! I really liked this movie - it was a great combination of elegant style, comedy, and melodrama. I love that it didn't use so many intertitles, and it felt...more modern because of it. Nothing in this movie was hard to follow - it was so easy to just sit back and enjoy it. I know a lot of people are weirded out by or intimidated by silent film, but it's worth giving it a chance. I feel like in every silent film I've written about I've declared it a great one if you're new to that style, and I'll say the same for this one. It's effortless and fun to watch it, and it I hope you check it out!

Have any thoughts about Sunrise? Share them in the comments!

Links:
Ebert's Great Movie Essay on Sunrise
Buy it on Amazon

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