Sunday, 21 April 2013

Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927) – ★★★★★

Director: F.W. Murnau
Writers: Carl Mayer, Hermann Sudermann
Stars: Janet Gaynor, George O’Brien, Margaret Livingston, Bodil Rosing

Cinematography teachers all around the world should show their students the magnificent film Sunrise. It is the epitome of innovative film-making, with special effects never seen before at the time and a real dark storyline. The three stars of the film are absolutely terrific, making this one of the greatest films of all time.

Winner of 3 Oscars at the very first Academy Awards, Sunrise is a film that questions the morality of ‘Two Humans,’ which is why it is appropriately titled “A Song of Two Humans.” The story surrounds an ‘evil’ temptress (Margaret Livingston) from the city, who bewitches a farmer named Anses (George O’Brien). She tries to convince him to murder his neglected wife, Indre (Janet Gaynor). 

The story questions the human character and how the mind can play tricks on people. It’s beautifully displayed through the cinematography and special effects. In one scene, we see Anses regret the thought of murdering his wife, but then he starts thinking about the ‘evil temptress,’ who appears as a faded figure clutching him in three different positions. This shows the stronghold she has on him, the way she affects him as if she is a burden that he can’t help but love. There is so much symbolism and beauty throughout this film that you could write an essay on the subject.

Margaret Livingston gave an incredible supporting performance. She actually pulled off looking evil and inhumane. If there were Oscars for Best Supporting Actress back then, she would most definitely have won. Janet Gaynor, however, did win an Oscar for Best Actress, and deservedly so. The silent era was all about what the actor displayed on the face, and there aren’t many that are better than Janet Gaynor at doing that. This is her greatest performance, which is saying a lot. George O’Brien was fantastic as a conflicted man, tossing good versus evil in his head. All three performances meshed with perfect chemistry.

Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans may have a dated story by today's standards, but the cinematography and acting still hold up against modern films. It’s not only one of the greatest silent movies of all time, it is one of the greatest films ever made.

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