Sunrise – Cinematography and other innovations

wed. 2/1/2017 5:39pm

It is still crazy to me that a film of such age can show such a narrative. Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans is from 1927, and I’ve watched a number of films from the 1920s so far (Man WIth a Movie CameraBattleship PotemkinSherlock Jr.) but none made me as (surprisingly, I admit) emotional as this. Because it’s a film from the silent era, the eliciting of a spectator’s emotion relies heavily – purely, I’d even argue – on the actors’ body language and sound.

The sound is definitely what struck me first – although a silent film (characterized most often by non-diegetic sound [orchestral music]), Sunrise had a lot of scenes in which the sound seemed to match up exactly with what was going on in the screen. Perhaps it was non-diegetic sound, but it could be very convincing as diegetic (a.k.a. synchronizing in time with reactions, “sound effects,” etc.). The most striking scene and example of this was when the couple walked out from the church, continuously looking into each other’s eyes, and in the middle of the street all of the cars started honking and humans started yelling.

Secondly, I am very curious as to how they managed to film two scenes: the jib/crane shot in the beginning that revealed the house (did they simply build a contraption that held the cinematographer as he/she was lifted up?), and the boat scene towards the end of the film; I don’t mean to underestimate the technology of one-hundred years ago, however I still wonder how they handled the water, and how many takes that must’ve taken.

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