Thursday, 17 March 2016

F.W. Murnau's "Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans" – Something for Everyone

It seems even more pointless than usual in this series of reviews to take on F.W. Murnau’s 1927 film Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans, given how much has already been written about it.  So I’ll keep it brief.


The short version of the review is, if you haven’t seen Sunrise, do yourself a favour and go and watch it.

It’s easy to imagine that even say in the 1980s, humanity was hopelessly less capable and less sophisticated than we are today.  The ridiculous fashions and hair, the barbaric non-genetic medicine, the dodgy racial politics...  So, it’s a shock to see a 1927 film with such self-evident style and ambition.  Turns out human beings were still pretty cool even back then.

Review continues below...

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The film contrasts city and country life but having a city tourist lady attempt to seduce a married farmer in the country.  All the types of animals we see in the first half have some counterpoint in the many types of vehicle we see in the subsequent city half.  The pigs that appear in the city escape from a fair and get drunk on spilled wine in an obvious perversion of nature.  Mostly it’s just cars, trams and lorries.

Perhaps Sunrise tries to cram too much into its one hour and thirty-four minutes.  You get highly symbolized scenes of the illicit lovers, scenes of domestic life, satirical contrasts between country and city ways, a murder plot, a sea journey and sea storm, slapstick sequences and a love story.  Then there are all the special effects and virtuoso tracking shots.  It’s like Murnau is trying to cram everything the cinema can offer into one film.

But who cares – go along for the ride – it’s exhilarating.

Personal Score: 8/10

This is part of a series of film reviews where I give my comments on IMDB Top 250 films as a writer. The idea is that over time these posts will build into a wide-ranging writing resource.

For more details about the approach I've taken, including some important points about its strengths and weaknesses (I make no claims about my abilities as a film critic or even the accuracy of my comments... but I do stand by the value of a writer's notes on interesting films), see my introductory post here.

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