Sunrise (1927)

Sunrise (1927), directed by F. W. Murnau

Movies are good at showing some things, like color and action and simple intense emotions. Other things they don't do at all, like scent or sensations like breeze on the hairs of your skin.

Difficult but possible are the nuanced emotions, the quiet inner dialogues, the waiting times when nothing seems to be moving (my favorite: James Stewart dozing in his wheelchair, listening to his neighborhood at night in Rear Window (1954)).

What is really strange is that sometimes these subtle elements are best told via old silent film techniques of exaggerated acting, and the German Expressionism that uses tilted floors and distorted furniture, giving a dreamlike ambiance, or one of fable.

This fable is set in no specific time or place. An American film that looks quite European, with country peasants visiting a city just slightly in the future, with glimpses of Metropolis or Gotham.

We begin in the middle of a sad tale: the country Man is bewitched by the vacationing Woman From the City. Everyone knows it, including the Wife, played by patiently suffering Janet Gaynor, a major talent of the 1920s and 30s.

The City Woman wants to take the Man back to the city. What of his wife? "You could drown her, make it look like an accident". Such is the depth of his degrading infatuation that he will try to do it.

Believe it or not, we get past that terrible segment and into fun times for the married couple after they row across the lake and take a train into the city. Many funny and heart-warming episodes here: my favorite bit is when an orchestra tries to snub them by playing a "Peasant Dance". Unashamed of who she is (and wiser than her husband), the Wife goes with it and everyone joins in to have a good time.

The day-long dream must end, then it is back across the lake to their different reality, into a storm and dramatic developments.

A remarkable adventure, going to all sort of unexpected and incongruous places. Famous for its innovative camera work.

Available on Blu-ray, which includes: