Movie Review by Dr Kuma
Starring: George O’Brien, Janet Gaynor, Margaret Livingston, Bodil Rosing, J. Farrell Macdonald
Director: F W Murnau
This is not only one of the greatest silent films ever made (the others being Fritz Lang’s METROPOLIS and the director F W Murnau’s own NOSFERATU) but one of the great films -period. It was placed highly in the Sight & Sound critics all time classics pole in the 80’s (before these things got out of hand) along with another film I saw this week TOKYO STORY. Whereas TOKYO STORY left me a little cold (I can’t say that I wasn’t moved) SUNRISE left me speechless, just like the actors within this truly great film.
Although this movie is silent, it was the loudest silent movie I have ever sat through. The projectionist oblivious to the fact that he could have perforated the critics’ ear drums and left them too in a silent world! The musical soundtrack was, in SPINAL TAP form, turned up to 11, but although this was painful to the ear the images on the screen were so startling that you almost forgot that the tinny (but effective if played at the right level) soundtrack was louder than any heavy rock gig this year as your brain concentrated on the genius of director Murnau. It is one of the great losses in cinema history that this talented director died in an automobile accident not long after this film was made. He really should be up there with Hitchcock. Although the film was made in 1927, it has dated badly only in its depiction of women’s roles in society. The film depicts that the temptress in the story is the sole cause for our hero’s attempted murder of his wife. There is no blame assigned to him, even though he is the married man with children. The woman is evil, asking the man to murder his wife to join her in the city, but really, the progression and depiction of the temptress may have a great deal to do with the director’s closet homosexuality as his depiction of women is naive, although more than likely, this probably has more to do with that fact that women’s roles have evolved more dramatically than could have been imagined in 1927.
The story starts when the attractive woman from the city, on vacation, stays in a small farming community and dazzles a young married farmer. The wicked woman suggests that the man’s deceptively dowdy-looking wife might “accidentally” drown. The lead up to and the aftermath of this incident is at the core of this story, which is not without humour, plot twists and some of the most amazing imagery you will see on the screen this year. Not bad for a movie nearly 80 years old.
I would strongly recommend that people go and see this film (or by the DVD) for two reasons. Not only does it show that cinema is an art form that when attached to genius, is hard to beat (the use of double exposure, showing us what is going through the actors mind in his darkest hour is mesmerising). The second is that Valentines Day is round the corner and this is the greatest love story I have ever seen. I have personal favourites (SPARTACUS, WHEN HARRY MET SALLY and MANHATTAN) but the scene where the two lovers walk through the traffic (another great trick shot) and the busy street turns to a field at sunset within their own world, is one of the greatest pieces of cinema I have ever seen.
Dr Kuma’s verdict: Change your lives and go and see why everyone should have someone to love and remind those that have just how lucky they are.