I decided to undertake a movie challenge in 2017. This seemed like a good way to see some classic movies that I have unfortunately never seen – the Battleship Pretension Top 100 provided just that challenge.
As I make my way through the Battleship Pretension Top 100 list, I am often delighted by how many different types of films are on the list. I was delighted that this week included a silent film I had never seen. Admittedly the silent era is not one I regularly seek out for my own personal viewing but I enjoy silent films and it is always good to look back at the early days of film. F.W. Murnau’s Sunrise is an excellent example of silent filmmaking. Though this was released the same year as The Jazz Singer, Sunrise is delightfully silent.
It took me a few minutes to get used to the silence but then I settled in and was delighted. The story telling is fairly simple but the acting was very good, especially George O’Brien as The Man. One thing that really surprised me was how sophisticated the filmmaking techniques were. Murnau made Sunset at the end of his career and there is some impressive camera work. Even though motion pictures had only been around about forty years they had mastered a lot of modern filmmaking techniques. For example the fade of the couple walking across a street fades to them in a forest then cuts back to them blocking traffic or when the Man is sitting in bed and faded version of his lover is holding him and whispering to him. Those scenes were nearly flawless and added a lot of depth to the film for me.
I like that the film wasn’t overly reliant on intertitles. Murnau let his actors tell the story. The actors are masters of silent film acting which at times is a little cheesy but works within the medium. I’m very glad that this film was on the list. It reminded me how good it is to look back at the early days of film and how dynamic and entertaining silent films can be.
I’ve decided to rate each film using an arbitrary scale based on the board game Battleship (lowest: Destroyer, Submarine, Cruiser, Battleship, highest: Carrier)
Sunrise ranking: Cruiser