Sunrise (1927)

At the risk of seeming like I am 70 years old, I’m posting about yet another silent film. Most of the silent films I watch on the regular are comedies. I’ve always felt like it’s easier to connect with today’s audience via visual gags and jokes, than a silent dramatic performance. This film blows that line of thinking out of the water. Sunrise is an incredibly emotional film with two unbelievable performances by George O’Brien & Janet Gaynor. F.W. Murneau, who also directed the revolutionary horror film Nosferatu, created his masterpiece in Sunrise. Dramatic silent films are usually littered with dialogue cards, interrupting the images with explanation. With that in mind, its a credit to the actors and director that there are probably less than a dozen throughout the entire 95 minute film. No words are needed, these images are just that powerful.

This film popped on my radar about a couple years ago. It began racing up “best ever” lists like AFI, IMDB Top 250 & Sight & Sound film polls. Sunrise won the first and only Best Picture Oscar for “Unique & Artistic FIlm”, one of only 3 silent films ever to win Best Picture (Wings & The Artist, the others). While this may be akin to a film winning a Best Picture in the ridiculous split genre categories of the Golden Globes, Sunrise deserved even more praise upon it’s release. It’s just that good. It was unfortunately buried by the monumental sensation of “talkies” which offered a new exciting era of movie going.

If this sounds a bit familiar, it should. The same thing may be taking place right now in our theaters with the huge expansion into 3D. You might scoff at the idea of everything being in 3D eventually, but think about it this way. With the roll out of talking pictures, no extra effort or more importantly cost was placed on the audience. As soon as the technology emerges that eliminates the need for those pesky 3D glasses, and it will, we will all be seeing everything in 3D. I submit this short clip as proof:

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Sunrise offers more than a gimmick. It offers a real connection to the characters in the film through love, an emotion that every person on the planet can relate to. Now I know that near every movie has some love elements in it, but when it is portrayed as simply and as beautifully as this, it really is something special. You don’t have to be a hopeless romantic to enjoy this great film.

-Wes Kelly

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3 thoughts on “Sunrise (1927)

  1. Your writing is excellent, Wes. I really want to see this movie now. Where do you find this and other silent films? Youtube? Funny thing was, when I clicked on the trailer, I stopped to put on my headphones – silly me. (from your second cousin, Cindy)

  2. Makes me want to see this movie. Where does one get a silent movie? Youtube? Your writing is excellent, Wes. Funny thing – when I clicked on the trailer, I stopped to put on my headphones – silly me. (your second cousin, Cindy).

    • Thanks, Cindy. A lot of silent films have fallen into public domain and are in fact available on youtube or a number of other free sites. archive.org is great. the only problem is that the quality is pretty poor for the most part. Not sure why that trailer has no music with it, but I’m surprised I was able to find a trailer for this at all.

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