Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans ★★★★★

A farmer, inflamed by passion for an alluring city girl, contemplates killing his wife. He repents and convinces his terrified wife of his contrition and love. They spend a happy day touring the city. As the couple sails home, a storm wrecks their boat, and they are thrown into the water. The despairing husband, believing his wife has drowned, nearly strangles the city girl, but he is stopped by his neighbor’s call that his wife has been found alive. During the night, he watches by her bedside. In the morning, they celebrate the renewal of their love and happiness.

This dream-like movie, an outstanding example of silent romantic drama, is deservedly celebrated, a must-see film. F.W. Murnau, highly successful in Germany, was hired by Fox Films to bring his prestige to the Fox Studio. Sunrise, Murnau’s first film at Fox, represents German expressionism transferred to America.

The simple story is told with a minimum of titles. Settings, lighting, and photography are beautifully designed in a soft, gauzy style. The acting is simplified, facial expressions and physical movements are minimized to enhance the emotional effect. The film stars Janet Gaynor and George O’Brien.