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F W Murnau’s Sunrise (1927) - Film Screening with Live Score


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Thierry Escaich organ

F W Murnau’s landmark film is an allegorical tale about a man fighting the good and evil within himself. Both sides are made flesh – one a sophisticated woman he is attracted to, the other his wife. Sunrise isn’t just an essential silent film; it is, in many ways, the essential silent film. It simultaneously represents both the pinnacle and the end of the silent film era.

As a leading figure of German Expressionism, Murnau’s enormous stylised sets and cinematic innovations led The New York Times to hail Sunrise as ‘a film masterpiece’. The city street set alone reportedly cost over $200,000 to build and was re-used in many subsequent Fox productions to recoup some costs.

We encounter characters with no names cast in a monochrome fairytale – but the human characters in Sunrise are in fact secondary to the true protagonist – the camera. Director Christopher Nolan concluded that the film helped him ‘to explore the possibilities of purely visual storytelling’.

Murnau pushed his images as far as he could, forced them upon us, haunted us with them. The more you consider Sunrise, the deeper it becomes – not because the story grows any more subtle, but because you realise the real subject is the horror beneath the surface…

The improvised score will be performed by French organist and composer Thierry Escaich, a unique figure in contemporary music and one of the most important French composers of his generation.