These notes accompany the screening of Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans, which screens on March 24, 25, and 26 in Theater 3.
After the international success of Der Letzte Mann (The Last Laugh), the film cognoscenti could legitimately argue that F. W. Murnau (1888–1931) deserved to be recognized as the most important filmmaker in the world; D. W. Griffith was coming off several interesting but unprofitable films and was about to lose his independence, Erich von Stroheim was fighting to salvage Greed, and Charles Chaplin had yet to make The Gold Rush. Sergei Eisenstein and Josef von Sternberg were still on the horizon. Murnau followed up with two additional Emil Jannings vehicles, adapted from Molière (Tartüff) and Goethe (Faust). Both films continued to utilize the vast resources of the Ufa studio, and the latter film was especially spectacular. The eminent film historian, Lotte Eisner, wrote “No other director…ever succeeded in conjuring up the supernatural as masterfully as this.” Hollywood took note.