Sunrise: A Song of Two HumansAFI Rank: #82 (10th Anniversary list)
Year Released: 1927
Actors: George O'Brien, Janet Gaynor, Margaret Livingston
Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans was a silent film which came out in 1927, only shortly before The Jazz Singer burst onto the scene and bringing talking to the movies. So it marks the end of an era, and it's considered by many to be the best silent movie ever made.
The movie is definitely powerful. Set in a dark, brooding landscape reminiscent of the moors of Wuthering Heights, we have the sweet, innocent wife and babe, and the moody, confused husband who is being seduced by the wild trollop of a city woman. While the wife is blonde, angelic, almost Mary-like with her sweet ways, the harlot has short, dark hair, wears high heels, smokes, and of course is willing to carry on with a married man. Not only that, but only moments into the film she is actively convincing him to kill off his wife so he can go to the city with her.
What follows is classic human nature. Will he kill his wife, or will he be overcome with guilt? How about the harlot?
It's a great idea to go into this completely unaware of what happens after that early setup. It makes all of the scenes play out even more powerfully, as you wonder what the next step will be. Some of them might seem a little unlikely - but that's OK. The movie is making a point, and I'm sure somewhere out there are humans will act in the way portrayed.
What's more impressive is the power of the visuals. The way the wife stares at the empty plate the husband leaves behind. The darness of the forest as the husband sneaks off to see the city woman. I'm only giving examples from early in the movie, of course, but there are a wealth of similar scenes later on.
Highly recommended as a movie that will suck you in, even nearly a century later.
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