FILM: Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)

Showtimes: Sunday, May 2
4:00pm
$18 public | $15 members

With LIVE musical accompaniment provided by Jeff Rapsis, New Hampshire-based performer regarded as one of the nation's leading silent film musicians.

F.W. Murnau's "Sunrise" (1927) conquered time and gravity with a freedom that was startling to its first audiences. To see it today is to be astonished by the boldness of its visual experimentation. Murnau was one of the greatest of the German expressionists; his "Nosferatu" (1922) invented the vampire movie, and his "The Last Laugh" (1924) became famous for doing away altogether with intertitles and telling the story entirely with images.

Murnau was part of a wave of successful European directors who were lured to the United States by studio moguls to increase the artistic prestige of American cinema in the 1920s. The Fox Movietone system made it the first fiction film to be released with an optical soundtrack. Carl Mayer wrote the screenplay for Sunrise, which is based on Hermann Sudermann’s short story Die Reise nach Tilsit (The Trip to Tilsit) published in 1917.

The story pits the hectic modern excess of the city against the calm of country life: it finds a farmer fall prey to the charms of a city woman who nearly drives him to kill his beloved wife. The film boasted a stylized aesthetic that had an enormous artistic and critical impact—its carefully construed montage sequences, haunting double exposures, pictorial lighting, and impressive tracking shots injected European modernism into classical American cinema. The film won three awards at the first Academy Awards in 1929: Unique and Artistic Production, Best Cinematography, and Best Actress in a Leading Role.

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Rating: NR
Director: F.W. Murnau
Starring: George O'Brien, Janet Gaynor
Release Date: September 23, 1927
Runtime: 95 mins
Format: DCP