Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)
Directed by F.W. Murnau
Written by Hermann Sudermann, Carl Mayer
Starring George O'Brien, Janet Gaynor
A harlot from the city seduces a common man from a town and convinces him to take his wife into the middle of a lake and drown her. The wife ends up figuring this out, because I guess the husband's acting is as transparent to her as it is to us, but then he has a change of heart and chases her into the city where he convinces her that he's over the bitch and they have a fun day getting haircuts and eating in restaurants and dancing at a fair. Ironically, the trip home brings them through an actual storm. But you have to watch the movie to see the actual ending.
I liked this a lot. The plot was cool enough and I didn't quite expect the entirety of the twist at the end. It was extremely straightforward, though, and there were exactly two characters in which we invest any emotion at all.
This was a silent film from 1927, but the requisite salt isn't the same as some of the other older movies we've seen recently (due in large part to the fact that there were only white people on the screen, I'm sure). There were comparatively few dialog cards; our understanding rested much more on the extreme overacting/emoting on the screen. But again, that served the plot well. I don't know if I could do the grand facial expressions required to pull this off.
The technical is where this movie really stood out for me. I'm still not a film historian, but this was eighty years ago. The opening shot starts with a drawing of a train station and it slowly dissolves into an actual train station (set?) which is exactly the same. The director uses tricks like this one throughout but they're not overbearing by any means. He also uses tracking shots and cranes and other things which I can't imagine were following many footsteps. And again, the trip home through the storm--soundstage or otherwise--is shot very well and actually carries a good sense of tension and danger.
This is one of those movies which are a little difficult to recommend. Leila couldn't take it after about the first half-hour, but I think there was a value in sticking it out. If you're serious about it when you start it I think you'll get benefit from it in the end.