Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans

Directed by F. W. Murnau
U.S / 1927 / Narrative
94 minutes / FORMAT: DCP

The first American film by one of German expressionism’s leading exponents, this lush, atmospheric silent drama is replete with groundbreaking cinematography.

Associated with 1920s German Expressionism, with its exaggerated sets and lighting techniques, F.W. Murnau brought the style with him to Hollywood for this expensive super-production.

The simple story of a husband’s betrayal of his wife with a treacherous city girl, the film moves from a fairytale-like depiction of rural life to a dynamic portrait of the bustling modern American city. Explored in elaborate tracking shots by Charles Rocher and Karl Struss’s pioneering camerawork, as when the unnamed Man and Wife first arrive by tram, the city set was one of the most costly yet produced.

The result was a commercial flop, though the achievement did not go unheralded: Sunrise was awarded a special Oscar for unique and artistic production at the first ever Academy Awards. (BFI)