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It is not an hyperbole to assert that Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927) is one of the sistine chapels of the seventh art, and that F.W. Murnau, its director, is one of the greatest filmmakers in the History of Cinema. Knowing Sunrise already is a great luck, but being able to watch it for the first time is an enviable privilege, an epiphany. Murnau left his eternal stamp in other masterpieces of the German expressionism like Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens (1922) and Der Letzte Mann (1924) -a merely silent film without intertitles- when he was summoned by Hollywood to display his talent with theoretical freedom. Sunrise was the amazing response. Based on a tale, it narrates the drama of a married man who, seduced by the charms of a fatal woman, feels obliged to kill his wife, but with a disturbing feeling of culpability and doubts.

Few basic arguments are really new, and this one is not either. But at a good length, the prodigy of Sunrise lies in the scenery and the visual narrative, full of formal audacity and, at the same time, filled by a transparent classical beauty, owing to the pictorial iconographies, and destined to be remembered. The frames, the movement of the camera, the multiple expositions, the sound effects -although it is a silent film-, and the intentional use of the intertitles, are some of the virtues that the historian point out as dazzling. The less important part is that it obtained three Oscars, although in opposition, its commercial trajectory was poor. What is important is that Murnau -who passed  away four years later in a car accident- achieved a work that moves, produces aesthetic pleasure, thrills, questions, and remains as an inexcusable reference.

Manuel Hidalgo

Fundación Juan March
Castelló, 77 – 28006 MADRID – Spain
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