I’ve just gotten home after viewing this film, and I have an immense urge to write and rewatch it.
This film is beautiful. The synopses that you find on IMDB don’t do this film justice – no amount of description can express what it is like to watch this film. The subtitle, ‘A Song of Two Humans,’ is about as close you can get: it’s an intimate, moving story about two human beings, unraveled as one long tone poem. The music is integral in adding a poetic, emotional dimension as the film ebbs and flows from one set piece to another, and it would not be nearly as iconic a piece of cinema if it had not been made in the silent era. Sunrise is poetry in motion.
As was common in German film, long takes and moving shots are frequent, and F.W. Murnau utilizes an assortment of creative angles and shots to give life and motion to the world that he creates. The lighting in some of the darker, more intimate shots are beautiful. Although the acting can sometimes go overboard in the first act, Janet Gaylor has a tremendous emotional range, and her co-star George O’Brien is nothing to scoff at. Without dialogue, the pure humanity of the two stars emanate and shine through their movements, expressions, and the way they conduct themselves at a physical and emotional level.
Sunrise is poetry. It is meant to be felt and understood at a primal level. The strokes of the soundtrack set the tone for the film and guide it through to its proper end, and all you can do is strap yourself in and let yourself be moved.