Sunrise 1927 (2)

95 minutes

Dir: F.W. Murnau

Producer: William Fox

Cinematography: Karl Struss, Charles Rosher

This is the one that perhaps should be called sunset. The backstory to this is the director, F.W. Murnau, a leading proponent of the German Expressionism movement, was lured to Hollywood. He’d directed a string of critically lauded films such as Nosferatu [1922] (google it, and you’ll be familiar with the images that has entered into film zeitgeist subsequently) & Faust [1926].

Sunrise was meant to be Murnau’s big coming out film in Hollywood. Instead, it cost too much and made too little. The producer William Fox, (yes his surname is where we get Fox Studio from) reeled him in for his two final films Four Devils (1928) and City Girl (1930), the last being completed shortly before he died in a car accident.

So basically this was the one picture where Murnau got to do what he wanted, before his creative freedom was downsized (not to mention painfully adapted for the sound era).

What you get in Sunrise is a film that has influenced more films than you can comprehend. The long tracking shots, the lush cinematography, the fact that the whole city was built from scratch (at a cost of $200,000).  You also can tell this is a filmmaker who is experimenting and having fun. Just one example is check out how he uses double exposures in the film.

It’s also the first film with a proper soundtrack that was commissioned especially for the film rather than just relying on the local organist to play whatever he /she fancied. (The system was called the Fox MovieTone Sound-on-film).

The plot focuses on a man (aptly called ‘The man’) who is lured into the depths of temptation and back again. It’s a typical story arc but told with a uniquely sad spin on it. Perfect for Hipsters.

Well that’s it. Definitely one of the many films you should watch sometime soon. As a side note it  is included in most lists including AFI’s and BFI’s best of lists and often referred to as the best silent film made of all time.

In terms of Awards it also won at the inaugural Oscars, including the Academy Award for Unique and Artistic Production and Best Cinematography.

As a piece of trivia this was the only time that there wasn’t a Best Picture (film) Oscar at the Oscars and instead the top awards were split into the Academy Award for ‘Unique and Artistic Production’ and ‘Outstanding Picture’ (won by Wings) that were noted at the ceremony for holding equal weighting.  Subsequently, this equal weighting has been reinterpreted by the Academy and Wings is often acknowledged with being the official Best Picture Oscar at the Awards in 1929.

Tips to enjoy Sunrise (1927)

  • Tired of the organ soundtrack? Have you considered muting it and adding a contemporary playlist filled with bittersweet tunes. Emeli Sandé, Cat Power & Flip Grater seemed to work for us.
  • Like bittersweet stories? Check out Hermann Sudermann’s novels and plays. He’s a German dramatist whose short story “Die Reise nach Tilsit” was adapted into this movie.

Can’t find it?

You can watch it here for free.

Sunrise (127)

Other Links for Trivia and Info on Sunrise (1927):

Wikipedia entry.

IMDB entry.

IMDB Trivia page.


Not only is the cinematography ground breaking, but it seems to blur the line between the ham fisted over the top acting of the silent era to a more modern ‘nuanced’ view of human emotion. The “man’s” journey from loving (but poor) husband, to enraged lover, and back again shows a depth that is often lacking in even more recent films.

posted by mummybot / 04.08.13 - 9:53 pm

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