Notes for the Seventh Lecture


F.W. Murnau

Developments in Germany, Russia and Italy impact the US Cabiria (on Intolerance)
Generally Sunrise is regarded as the best silent film ever made or, at worst, one of the top 5 silent films ever made. Some claim it is the best film ever made.
Sunrise is considered by many a classic silent film and perhaps one of the greatest films ever made.
German expressionism is best seen in films like Nosferatu and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari with their wild off kilter sets, odd costumes and so on. But expressionism also occurs in less intense forms and so it is in Der Műde Tod and especially in Sunrise.

Murnau was born Friedrich Wilhelm Plumpe on December 28, 1888 and died March 11, 1931. He took the name Murnau from an artist colony in Germany

His early films (1919-22) did not gain much attention until Nosferatu (1922) an adaptation of Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula all copies of which were to be destroyed asa result of a lawsuit from the Bram Stoker estate for Murnau’s using the Dracula story As is the case in amny situations films that are considered lost are found in some projectioinist’s attic or something like that and so it was with Nosferatu

The Last Laugh (Der letzte Mann) in 1924 and Faust (Faust: Eine deutsche Volkssage ( Faust: A German Folktale) (1926). Murnau had pushed for this so he could make an artistic film that would get him invited to Hollywood It worked and Sunrise is probably one of the few films (if not the only one) that was made without studio interference.


a. Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences (1929 awards). 1.Winner Oscar Best Picture, Unique and Artistic Production 2.Winner Oscar Best Actress in a Leading Role: Janet Gaynor Shared with: 7th Heaven and Street Angel
3.Winner Oscar Best Cinematography: Charles Rosher and Karl Struss
4.Nominee Oscar Best Art Direction Rochus Gliese
b. National Film Preservation Board, USA 1989 Winner National Film Registry c. Kinema Junpo Awards (Seasonal Cinema News) Japan award given out since 1928 1929 Winner Kinema Junpo Award: Best Foreign Language Film F.W. Murnau
Despite critical success it was not very popular with audiences,

Murnau’s next two films were sound (both lost) 4 Devils (1928) and City Girl (1930) and did not do well, He left for the South Pacific where he initially teamed with "documentary" film maker Robert J. Flaherty.There were plans to make a film about Polynesian life. (Tabu aka Moana) Murnao left the film early over disagreements with Flaherty leaving Flaherty to complete it alone which he did. Basically the film is Flaherty’s although it is often referred to as a Murnau-Flaherty film with Murnau listed first although Murnau had almost nothing to do with it. (The film was censored in the US because of the images of bare breasted Polynesian women. Flash Gordon got a warning on the first serial that the women’s clothes were too scanty and were altered after that. Censorship will be discussed more later.

The two performers in the film

Janet Gaynor (1906-1984) A Star is Born (1937) with Frederick March and Seventh Heaven (1927) BEST ACTRESS AWARD 1927 for Sunrise, Street Angel and Seventh Heaven (all three Films the same year). She was also nominated for the 1937 film A Star is Born

George O’Brian (1899-1985). Son of a San Francisco police chief. Athlete, Heavyweight boxing champ of the Pacific fleet during WW I. Became a part time actor and a stuntman. Appeared in small roles from 1922. Picked by John Ford for his 1924 film . He is mostly known for his westerns and action movies. This role in is a complete break with his usual roles and is remarkable for its unexpectedness. Murnau must have worked with him on his acting giving him instructions like "Act with your back" (necessary since many of Murnau's tracking shots are from behind the characters) and you can see him do it when he is being menacing. He also had him wear weighted boots to give his walk a peculiar look

The photography (Cinematography) was done by Charles Rosher and Karl Struss bothof whom got the Academy award. Both were well known cinematographers and Struss was particularly known for his superimpositions, montages and composite shots all of which were done in this film (and others) in camera. (No optical printers at this time).

Rosher was well known for his lighting and his ability to mix artificial lighting with natural light, The film ia still regarded today as one of the finest examples of 1920's filmmaking. The scenes atmosphere is in large part of Rosher's lighting with its twilight scenes and expressionist shadows. It has been likened to "cinematic French impressionism". Rosher himself recalled this as one of the most difficult assignments of his career, particularly in terms of lighting such tricky scenes as the moonlit, fog-bound swamp, His camera is very mobile with complex tracking shots annd interesting use of focus. It is not surprising that Sunrise inevitably, ended up winning the top award for "unique and artistic production". Two years later, after a falling out with Pickford during filming of Coquette (1929) , Rosher went his own way. He was never out of a job for long, working variously for RKO (1932-33), MGM (1930,1934) and Warner Brothers (1937-41).

Sunrise like many early films has titles and intertitles, the first (i.e. titles) occur at the start of the film while the second (intertitles) are indicators of what the characters say. By the late periodin silent films intertitles have developed a "life of their own" (Recall the different scripts used in Destiny some in a fake Arabic script and some ina faake Chinese character script.In several instances in the film the same title occurs before and after a scene which happens in the more distant past but is being referred to in the present. Hence comments about how happy the Man and Woman were at first appear as intertitles. Then we see the"happy couple" in earlier times and the we see the intertitles appear again. The same occurs when the two women talk about the money lenders stripping the farm of its assets.In both these cases the same title card appears at the beginning and end of the falshback generated by the conversation, Later when the City woman asks if the wife "could not get drowned", the words slide down the screen as if sinking,

Things to watch for in the film:

a. What are the impacts of German expressonism? b. What technical effects are used and to what end? c. Lack of synchronized sound and use of sound effects? d. Cinematography - lightng and focus e. Sets? Superimposition and dissolves. Sound: Bells music, SETS: Off kilter floors raked, scene at in City Woman in slanted floor - llght at odd angle table tilted These are all examples of German epxressionism

Lighting streaming down. This is the catharsis and the film now much lighter. In the trip in the trolley the outside goes from rather dark (the country can be dark and scary like the city). Must of the shots in the city are bright. The oncoming storm darkens the city and becomes as dangerous there as on the lake.

They exit the church like Bride and Groom Mentioned by photographer as "prettiest bride this year"


No synchronous sound, but there are crowd noises and sound effects of trains and horns of automobiles.


The musical score quotes from some previously composed music including Les Preludes by Liszt and the Siegfried Idyll by Wagner. The first is a bucolic piece of music and takes it name from a poem that asks "What is our life but a series of preludes” The preludes are really to a life which is to come and is discussed as a piece of music whose first solemn note is death". Hence it deals with life and its relationship to a new life. Wagner’s piece was written as a present to his wife and had the musicians lined up on the stairway to their bedroom and in the morning he had them play it as his wife awoke. A third pieceis Gounod's Funeral MArch of a Marionette best remembered as the theme for Anfred Hitchcock's T.V. program and appears appropriately enough in the photographer's studio with the small headless statue.

The orchestra is often related to the images which may in fact be "seen" on the screen as the imaginings of the people in the film When the City Woman talks to the Man about the city, we see what they are imaging and here some raucous music which the City Woman dances to almost in a frenzy

. The orchestra sometimes mimics the human voice. The horn which is used when the Man calls for the Woman is especially interesting since the idea is to make the story universal. If the Man had actually been audible, there would have had to have been an actual name he called, rather than remaining "universally anonymous" Movement

(camera) There are several tracking shots that are famous in this film - one when the City Woman walks to the Man’s house and the camera follows her path and the other when the Man walks in the marshes to meet the City Woman. His peculiar gait (brought about by wearing heavily weighed shoes and the fact that his distance from the camera remains virtually constant gives an unusual feeling of lack of progress to the walk. Actor's movement O’Brien is able, because of the weighted shoes, to look peculiarly monstrous as he walks and menaces the Woman. Karloff must have studied him for Frankenstein’s monster! (although not track watch the high angle shots removing the horizon line and hiding George O’Brien’s eyes in the boat Slow motion shot of him pushing her into the lake There is a great deal of looking and avoidance of looking as well as being aware of being seen and not being seen. See below. Things: Objects also produce motion in the film - most notably the two vehicles - the boat and the trolley ride . These are also tied to shifts in light from dark to light or light to dark There is complex movement in here as well as the boat is often moving very fast against the water, yet not relative to the viewer. What implications does this have? (point of view for identification) Absence of things on the walls in the country yet walls are backlit. Note in the scene where the woman lights her cigarette from the candle. Backlit walls SOME SYMBOLISM

Image of "cross" on the bed at the couples home which comes and goes and changes
Nets as Man walks to hide thebulrushes indicative of entrapment
Walk through the mud after the man and city woman meet (after she has had her shoes cleaned by the woman where the City WOman is stayihng,
City woman in black almosyt skin tight, Is she a serpent in the GArden of Eden?
Animals sensing danger

Can you come up with others? Reflexivity: the film looks at performance and art which it iself is photographer arranges picture (art) but the photo is of life and isn't posed
the peasant dance is basically a performance which annoys the Man, but the dance on the barge as they sail home is life and theMan and the Woman wave to the dancers.

There is much "Specularization"
Much looking through windows, performances (dance) etc. all somewhat reflexive
Art mediates desire from experience per se.
City woman looks at Man through window = peeping Tom
Who stares (at whom) and who averts eyes.. (look at eyes in boat and on trolley)
Gaze of the pair at the city
Watching and identifying with watching (watching bride and groom in church and taking vows again).


Get photographed after wedding. See the photographer photographing. (background is fake as in the film)
The film is somewhat reflexive and deals at one level with art (motion pictures) and life. (Scenes in the photographers studio) Some feel that Murnau seems to express the idea that one can learn more about life from art than from life, but there seems to be an opposite idea – the photographer poses them (Art) but realizes the real picture is in their un-posed kiss.
The "peasant dance" raised (clearly not America there are no peasants) in the restaurant embarrasses the man, but he and the woman waves happily to the people dancing on the barge as they travel homeward.
Lost/found life/death death/rebirth sun (moon)rise/sun(moon)set (cyclical) MOON vs. SUN
Nets - entrapment behind the man of wrought iron work
Shadow from window on bed (comes and goes - sometimes like crucifix) Shadows
Footprints in MUD man’s and woman’s (just after she has them cleaned.
Woman from City - dark tight clothing almost skin like (serpent? Does this make her the devil and the area the garden of eden?
In this case is paradise regained? She smokes, undress, plots schemes, self centered (interrupts dinnerr to have her shoes cleaned) Animals sense danger - dog birds fleeing Superimpositions

Water over the bed
Change from city to country as couple walks through the city.
City life over city women dancing in the swamp.
Woman around the Man<

POV Vision of straw when he is in the bedroom (not really superimposition
Dramatic shift in walk in the swamp when the camera tracking the MAN suddenly leaves him and pushes pushes aside to become POV shot,
Flashbacks Flashbacks are often placed between two of the same intertitle cards. This is a "marker" that let's the audience know that what follows (and/or) proceeded is not in linear sequence.
Some slow motion in visualization of murder Two great tracking shots. City woman goes to house
Man goes to meet city woman.
Walking in the city when he buys flowers,
Walking into the dissolve into the coutry
Tracking often shot following the main characters showing their backs
Use of Light Dark scenes vs. light scenes
Changes in light on the trolley ride
Watch source light mixture of natural vs. artificial light (Woman’s walk at night with lights in window
Much back lighting. Very little on walls of houses puts emphasis on the people
Use of music Cultural knowledge. Many artists have wide knowledge of other arts which they "reference". This is a kind of intertextuality between film and different arts. Paintings are often referenced in films as well, as is music:
Perhaps one of the most famous is Thus Spake Zarathustra (Richard Strauss) already referencing Nietzsche’s book of the same name (both are evolutionary) which opens Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.
There is a score for the film, which is composed for the film, but other music also occurs:
Les Preludes (Liszt) (The opening music)
Funeral March of a Marionette (Gounod)
Siegfried Idyll (Wagner)
What is the importance of the "Peasant Dance"? We get to see the information on the music as to what the title is, and that it is a peasant dance.
BINARY OPPOSITION (some repeated from above)

Binary opposition as part of an analytical theory in anthropology andfolklore isassociated with Clause Levi-Strauss. In a sense it relates to computers operating in binary systems although Marx' dialect which also tends to be binary existed before that. In n=both Marx abd Levi-Straus, there is a kind of opposition between forces that results in something new. These are labeled "thesis", antithesis& t; and "synthesis". The new sythesis is the next thesis: sor Marx it was a class struggle, in the 70's it was a gender struggle and now a racial struggle. For Levi-Straus there isna mediation that resolves the subtext. Soin the Oedipus myth Oedipus kills his father (which Levi STraus sees as "underrating&" family; and married his mother "overrating family. He then postulatedthat the story is about a question that arrises in the culture (presumably ancient Greek) which has a single lineof descent through the father - How can I be related only through my father's side of the family? His argument is complex and was argued and duscussed for many years.

Some analysis country and of Sunrise take a similar approach finding oppositions all through the film :city/country; light/darthesisk etc. although no analysis tend to resolve or produce the synthesis:On one side is the city, sophistication/naivety or simplicity; darkness/light; night/day the moon/the sun; danger/safety.sound/silent. Some analysts try to argue that the film comes down on the side of the country but Murnau is pretty clear in this openning statement that this is something that could habppen anywhere and at any time. It isn't a contest. It is "Songof Two Humans". It tends to see similar problems everywhere. The lack of a spoken text means there aer no names, noo language or anything that would place the story in a given place aand a given time. The lack of synchronizedsound works for the film not against it. Notice the use of thehorn when the man is calling his wife.No name,,,no words...just a sound

Notice that while the naivety of the Man is clear when he doesn't know about ancient statues etc., he is theonly one competent to catch the pig!

The country can be dangerous - it is the place where the murder is plotted while the city is locale of the rconcilliation. The attemp at the murder is in a liminal place (the lake) on the way to the city; the storm which destroys the boat is also on the lake on the way back.

The country is the place of the estanblishment of the relationship and the removal of the "evil" city woman (City is evil) and the resestablishment of the family with the country woman (good).

The film has a number of sequences that are "bookended" The sequences are entered through a specific shot, which is then repeated as the sequence closes - often with the action in the oppositie direction, The film opens with people going FROM THE CITY TO THE COUNTRY the country annd ends with the City Woman going FROM THE COUNTRY BACK TO THE CITY.

Below is a list of some of the " binary oppositions"

Borders/transitions and set places
Boat dangerous attempted murder as well as the storm Movement across the lake is dangerous. Some may choose to read the lake Freudianly as having sexual implications, and hence the sexuality of the film is dangerous when movement is involved.
Trolley (travel by land) place of start of reconciliation transition from lake to city and emotionally Beginning of his recognition and attempts at reconciliation. (May be longest tracking shot in film!)

Light/Dark (day/night) Night is dangerous there is an illicit meeting, and a storm on the water
Day is happy earlier life.; sunrise of reconciliation
Symbols not so simple with Murnau. City is also place of bright lights (artificial at amusement park) , while forest is often dark and dangerous. Linking of city with night and woods with day is not so easy. Is it really a way of indicating “everywhere” city and country alike
The idea that the film has an opposition to the country is tricky since the opening titles say this is a film of “no place and every place”

City/country not really so black and white rather shades of grey Country /childhood
Home of the man & woman (garden of Eden)
Dangerous elements – storm, infidelity,
Boorish, peasantry (dance at restaurant aggravates the MAN but yields to the WOMAN different when people are dancing on barge
At Photographer – headless statue (country folk don’t know art. Rural nature of the country - see barber shop, return invitation to manager to visit. Two areas don’t quite mix. City woman out of place in country, country people out of place in city but many parallels. Little “inappropriate” advances in both places – (women manicurist seen as an advance – dressed somewhat like CITY WOMAN) Man to the woman in the barber shop, older man who rescued the woman is approached by maid – wife stops.)

City:/adult City woman is "devil" - drive out of Eden at the end Place of sophistication: many people, fancy restaurant, barber shop, amusement park etc. also City is also the place of reconciliation: country has more violence (City Woman convinces man to kill wife; he agrees. Sort of "rerun" at the end: same approach to house by City Woman only this time he is going to kill her. (Note light changes before and after the maid calls to see the wife has been found) City has people less physically aggressive The man’s approach to the aggressive guy in the barber shop and the man who pushes him to dance indicate a physical aggression (perhaps merited) which the City people back down from.

Madonna/whore Clearly there is a set \up of the City woman as evil and the country one as good. This may be the clearest division in the film. Despite the idea that one comes from the city, we have indicated the city is not always a bad place. It is in fact, the place of movies as indicated by theater marquee