Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans

Shown in Milne Auditorium (in Kepner Hall) Friday, November 5th at 7 pm with the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra

Sunrise:  A Song of Two Humans.  (US, 1927, 94 minutes)
While it enjoyed limited commercial success at the time of its release due in large part to the fact that silent films were being ousted by “talkies,” F. W. Murnau’s Sunrise: a Song of Two Humans was an immediate critical triumph, lauded as a crowning achievement for both the director and Fox Studios.  As critic Todd Ludy wrote, “The motion picture camera—for so long tethered by bulk and naiveté—had with Sunrise finally learned to fly.”  Released at the moment when silent film had reached the pinnacle of excellence, Sunrise received one of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences top prizes in 1928: “best unique and artistic production.”  Today, it is almost universally praised as one of film’s greatest artistic achievements.  Essentially a fable about nameless but beautifully defined character types, Sunrise tells a dream-like story of a country Man and his Wife who are eventually driven apart by the Woman from the City.  Although the film’s plot of infidelity and heartbreak may sound hackneyed, this film gives that age-old story brilliant new life and employs innovative techniques and poetic images that will astound today’s filmgoers with their beauty.  Fully realizing the expressionist style for which its director became famous, Sunrise employs incredible superimpositions and special effects that were unheard of in 1927 to depict frenzied 1920s nightclubs, ghostly visions, and the contrast between the idyllic country and the hustle-and-bustle of modern living.  Reflecting the director’s distinctive style and cutting-edge technical abilities, Sunrise will give any receptive viewer a new respect for the often-neglected silent cinema.  The film will be screened with musical accompaniment by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra, a five-piece chamber ensemble that revives the sound and scoring techniques of the small orchestras that performed in silent movie theaters.  The Colorado-based group composes film scores by choosing music from a large library for each scene in the film, as music directors did in the 1920s. Their library ranges from classical excerpts arranged for small orchestra to music composed specially for silent films, and includes popular dance music like ragtime, foxtrots, and the Charleston. This technique is solidly based in its historic era and it will surely bring the film to life, particularly for viewers who have never seen a silent film presented with live musical accompaniment.  As Leah Garchik of the San Francisco Chronicle explains, the Mont Alto’s music, when combined with a great silent film, is “like hot fudge on a sundae."  You most certainly won’t want to miss this decadent treat! Synopsis Author: April Miller


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