Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans
Restored 35mm Print
Janet Gaynor, George O’Brien, Margaret Livingston, Bodil Rosing,
Murnau’s American masterpiece was written while the director was still in Germany. It is set in a weatherworn hamlet that is not America—perhaps Middle Europe, more like Middle Earth—and a city a world away, just across the lake. A trite situation—the happy marriage of a peasant couple invaded by a big-city seductress—is immediately stripped of melodrama, ultimately becoming film poetry. The director’s famously “invisible” tracking shots and the fluidity with which he moves through double exposures create an extraordinary moving palette from which we can project story, psychology, and a horrifyingly genuine involvement with the characters. Here is America’s sweetheart couple, George O’Brien and Janet Gaynor, in medias infidelity: O’Brien, distracted, almost gothically depressed by his affair as he plots a Dreiser-like boat accident for Gaynor, his wife. The very thought hovers and dances like moonlight over the rest of the film, which gaily tries to dodge it.