Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)

“Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans” (1927)


two worlds

The 20’s were still an epoch when film was yet to be defined as an art, in its specificities, in its limits (which are constantly being challenged, to our days). I think you can see the evolution of any art (in fact the evolution of anything) in two fundamental ways. You can either consider that it Had to go the way it went; or you can consider that the fact that we stand where we stand to day is incidental, or the result of a number of aspects, but that it could have gone other ways. I stand for the second attitude. And so i really have fun considering the other options, how could it have gone? Making filmic archaeology helps a lot.

In film, the “other way” might have been (and was for a while) not to center the medium on visual narrative, instead purely as a visual, not necessarily narrative art. Moving images in a visceral way painting would never be able to achieve. That’s what attracted painters in the first place. So if you go to folks like Man Ray (once a painter, than a photographer, finally a filmmaker), you will see that he neglected the narrative potential of the medium, instead taking it as a new way to be in the world of visuals. That was done, to consider cinema as (another) plastic art. But we never saw what that might have given, because the talkies would bring the supremacy of the storytellers, and what today is called “videoart” and other parallel movements do not satisfy me, i think better things might be done.

The years 10′ were built by the pioneers. The 30’s were already in the footsteps of modern cinema. But in the 20′ we had painters and storytellers in the same boat, each building their own possibilities. The former vaudeville theatre artists took the lead in the business of stories (Chaplin, Keaton… around Hollywood). The so called German expressionists made it in the “art business”.

So we have this film, by an element of the art gang, contaminated, hired and influenced by the theatre guys. A balance between story telling and the pure pleasure of taking images. This film will always have to be celebrated for how Murnau makes the camera move, such a revolution!, as big as the discovery of the montage. As a “painting” it is as beautiful as you could get by a German artist with such influences working under industry guys. As a story it is what it represents: having to do with a number of oppositions and dualities: city-country; sun-moon; stillness-agitation; quietness-vice. Where do you stand? Where do you find yourself? in frantic otherworldliness agitation of the city or in the quiet contemplation of stillness, in its shadows and lightness, in its moonish thunders and its sunrises? That’s the whole point from where i stand today.

My opinion: 4/5

This comment on IMDb


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