Monday, January 17, 2011
Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans. A-
F.W. Mornau did a great thing for America by bring his influential German expressionistic style to the states with the award winning Sunrise (1927 Academy award winner for Best Picture). I would have loved to be alive back then to see the amazement in the eyes of the public at the radical departure Sunrise took from the standard motion picture. The film is full of dreamlike sequences and images, which are fitting for the fairy tale it's telling. The sets were expensive to the point where they were kept to be used on other movies. This film feels wickedly alive from the beginning, when a city girl meets a farmer and persuades him to kill his wife so they can be together. This leads to one of the finest sequences in all the movies. The husband is taking his wife across he river on a boat, she anticipating a day in the city while he prepares for a murder. But just as he is about to drown her, he finds himself torn between the two woman, one which he's uncertain about, and the other who finds isn't quite worth killing for. The wife can do nothing but sit there, horrified, as he continues to row. They reach the other side and take a trolly into town. She is in complete shock, as is he at how close he came to killing his wife. He tries over and over to make it up to her, but she only becomes more traumatized. This clearly has to be one of the most awkward and challenging situations between a man and woman ever committed to film. Then they witness a wedding in a church and decide to sit in on the ceremony. We witness a couple, standing together, pure and happy, and then this couple collapsed in a pew, torn, exhausted, emotionally spent. But seeing this young couple so fresh and pure unleashes a new energy in the man and woman, and they come out of the church, hand in hand, as if they are the ones who have just been married. At this point we are witnessing a pure masterpiece. Unfortunately the rest of the film doesn't live up to the first half hour. It's merely an expression of love, one adventure after another in which this couple restores their lost relationship. The movie's haunting quality returns in the final act, when the city girl realizes that her plan has failed. It's silent, but it's worth it.