Monday Movie: Sunrise, by Sarah Brinks
Admittedly, the silent era is not one I regularly seek out for my own personal viewing but I enjoy silent films and it’s always good to look back at the early days. F.W. Murnau’s Sunrise is an excellent example. 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 storytelling is fairly simple but the acting is good, especially George O’Brien as The Man. One thing that really surprises is how sophisticated the filmmaking techniques are. Murnau made Sunset at the end of his career and this is some impressive camera work. Even though motion pictures had only been around about 40 years, a lot of modern filmmaking techniques had already been mastered. For example, a shot of the couple walking across a street fades to them in a forest then cuts back to them blocking traffic. In another example, the Man is sitting in bed and a ghostly version of his lover is holding him and whispering to him. These scenes are nearly flawless and add a lot of depth.
The film isn’t overly reliant on intertitles. Murnau lets his actors tell the story. They are masters of silent film acting which, at times, is a little cheesy but works for the medium. Sunrise is a reminder of how good it is to look back at the early days of film and how dynamic and entertaining silent films can be.