Sunrise (1927) 95 minutes

The German director Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau is probably most famous for his proto-horror film, Nosferatu, starring Max Shreck in his famously deranged portrayal of Count Orlock. But Sunrise is usually regarded as his more polished and finer film. It won an Oscar at the first year of the Academy Awards for the “Best Unique and Artistic Picture” award.

Among the technical innovations that Murnau introduced to the medium of filmmaking with this movie was the tracking, or moving, camera that moved through space to give an illusion of space and depth that heretofore wasn’t possible. And though it is a silent film, or more accurately, a film with no spoken dialogue, Sunrise was also the first film to use a new technology that synced the soundtrack by Hugo Riesenfeld to the film stock. This, however, was massively dwarfed by the fact that a few days later the first “talkie” film, a film with actors reciting dialogue, was released and obscured Sunrise at the box office.

This film, I feel compelled to tell you, has also been called “one of the greatest films ever made” by numerous critics and polls. But I feel like I’ve repeated that phrase many times in these film notes, and it is certainly obvious that many, many films have been called “the Greatest” (the last time I remember invoking that magnitude of superlative was for last semester’s screening of Tarkovsky’s Andrei Rublev. There are even several Wikipedia entries for “Films Considered the Greatest Ever.” So maybe I should start referencing exactly where these claims are coming from. I guess I’ll start doing that now, by telling you that Sight & Sound magazine has this film as the 7th greatest film of all time, (behind Citizen Kane by Welles, Vertigo by Hitchcock, Rules of the Game by Renoir, The Godfather by Coppola, Tokyo Story by Ozu, 2001 by Kubrick, and Battleship Potemkin by Eisensteing), and the American Film Institute has Sunrise in its 100 Greatest Ever collection.

(originally written 1/30/2007)

Tags: , , ,

Leave a Reply