Filmsite Movie Review 100 Greatest Films
Sunrise (1927)
Pages: (1) (2)
Plot Synopsis (continued)

In a cafe scene full of pathos and emotion, he guides her to a table where he is bitterly remorseful at having even thought of taking her life. They sit in mute silence together as she bends away from him. He buys her a plate of cakes in an attempt at communion - to restore her confidence in him and to gain absolution, forgiveness, and atonement. He slowly pushes the plate toward her, but neither of them wants or has the appetite to eat. Anguished, she reaches for a piece and tries one bite, but then begins to sob uncontrollably. They leave the cafe where he offers her a large bouquet of white flowers from a street vendor, but she is inconsolable once again.

He leads her into a side opening off the busy street where she sobs while clutching the flowers to her breast. He comforts her by stroking her shoulder and her hand to calm her, and she begins wiping her tears away. Slowly, she begins to yield to his entreaties, and her faith is restored. Their tearful reconciliation is completed by a view of a church across the street where a wedding is taking place.

In the marvelous wedding sequence, they watch a bride-to-be with a long veil enter a church. Exchanging glances with each other, they decide to venture over to take a closer look. Inside the church where shafts of light break through [the shafts of light are artificial - they were painted onto the set's backdrop], they observe the ceremony, step into the light, and sit in one of the pews. They overhear the minister tell the bridegroom:

God is giving you, in the holy bonds of matrimony, a trust. She is young...and inexperienced. Guide her and love her...keep and protect her from all harm.

Overcome by emotion in a close-up, the husband silently, then sobbingly in his wife's lap, re-recites the wedding vows, unseen by the young couple who are themselves reciting the vows to the minister who has asked: "Wilt thou LOVE her?" Perhaps the husband understands for the first time how he has broken the sanctity of the marriage vows with infidelity and thoughts of violence. After renewing their vows by proxy and being 'remarried,' she lovingly embraces, kisses and comforts her transformed husband after he asks:

Forgive me!

He collapses into her arms. Church bells ring - another moment of catharsis in their own marriage ceremony. They emerge from the church before the actual bride and groom - literally transported by reconciled feelings of love. Spiritually reunited and re-sanctified with his wife, his body is no longer hunched over.

After their exit from the church, in a scene utilizing the technique of rear-projection and superimposition - and the concept of subjective imagery, the husband and wife walk straight into the city's busy thoroughfare outside the church. Reunited and without fear and guilt, they are invulnerable to the dangerous traffic they navigate through. Magically, they appear in a wooded country field with beautiful blooming flowers (a dissolve of a rear-projected image) - their internal perceptions, visions, and feelings take on an objective reality. They walk into their fantasy world of the country and kiss - their love triumphs over chaotic evil in a commonly-shared dream. They suddenly reappear super-imposed back within the congested city, and are startled to find themselves in the midst of honking city traffic (another rear-projected image) - while still kissing. In rapid succession, horns honk, a close-up of a foot slams a car's brake pedal, a tram stops suddenly and jolts passengers, horses are reigned back, and an out-of-control bicyclist falls off when he can't brake in time. They find safety and refuge back on a sidewalk.

In love once again now that he is restored to his sanity, they set out on a series of romantic adventures. First, they come upon a Photographer's studio where they first view pictures of loving married couples in the storefront window. Their reflected image of their happy faces is superimposed on the glass above the portraits. Noticing that he has stubbly growth on his face, they go to a deluxe barbershop where the husband is ushered in and given a fancy haircut and old-fashioned shave by the Barber (Ralph Sipperly). The wife is also prepared for a trimming in a hairdresser's chair, but she declines to have her locks trimmed. She is seated in the waiting area where she at first watches jealously from afar, as her husband ignores the attentive advances of the Manicure Girl (Jane Winton) who asks and suggests: "Manicure? You'd look grand with a high polish!" Once released from the barber chair, he defends his wife from the attentions of a roguish, Obtrusive Gentleman admirer (Arthur Housman) in the waiting area, threatening the fear-stricken man with his pocket knife. As they leave the shop, they are asked by the host to "Come again!" They return the pleasantry: "Thank you! And you must come and see us some time."

They return to the Photographer's (J. Farrell McDonald) studio to have their portrait taken. The photographer positions them in front of a faux woodsy background as he compliments him: "Congratulations! She is the sweetest bride I've seen this year." In closeup, the husband smiles broadly - clearly in love and full of pride in his 'new wife.' The photographer privately watches them, in an inverted view through his lens, while they steal a kiss from each other, oblivious to their surroundings. He snaps the picture to capture the moment. While waiting for the picture's development, they playfully tease each other, accidently knocking over one of the studio's headless statues. Naively believing they have knocked its head off, they search frantically for it on the floor. To cover up for the mishap, the husband places a fake head on the statue. They quickly pay for their photograph and frantically rush from the studio, relieved. Outside, they get their first look at their portrait - and they share a laugh together realizing that the photographer caught them kissing.

Back in the country, the vamp plots to take the farmer's money. While enveloped with cigarette smoke, she circles a newspaper advertisement for the purchase of farm land:

FARMERS (If you want to sell your home and move to the city, We Pay Cash), United Real Estate Company, Nat'l Bank Bldg.

In the city's Luna Park amusement-park sequence, crowds gather to queue up and stream into a tunnel under a gigantic twirling centerpiece, their shadows silhouetted on the wall behind them. The camera tracks into the park, where miniature planes circle above a huge roller-coaster flashing with lights. Water fountains decorate the grounds. A balloon-seller hawks his wares in the fancy restaurant. The husband plays one of the park's games, hawked by the man in the booth: "Hit the hole...make the little piggy roll!" The game involves throwing a ball toward a target to release a pig (a farm animal that the Man is quite familiar with) down a slide. Behind him, grass-skirted dancers hula to entice the crowds. The romantically-inclined wife is more interested in an area with live music where loving couples dreamily dance cheek-to-cheek.

In scenes to provide a comic interlude, one of the piglets escapes from the game booth, causing a panic and commotion in the urban crowd. The husband eventually captures the drunken piglet after it has consumed alcohol spilled on the floor in the park's restaurant. As a reward for the return of the escaped pig to its owner, the band is instructed to play 'Midsummer' (Peasant Dance). The heroic farmer is coaxed into dancing with his wife and the rural peasant couple reluctantly oblige the appreciative city crowd.

After their romantic evening, they enter the park's restaurant and sit down to enjoy a bottle of wine. Enthralled by each other, they imagine angels twirling around together (in a rear-projected image above them) until the waiter approaches and delivers the bill. With just enough coins to share in the expense of the wine, they leave the table in a slightly euphoric state. He presents her with the bouquet of flowers from the table. Fireworks explode above them as they leave the park - the artificial light of the amusement-park scene represents a state of ecstasy. The evil, dark city is transformed, becoming warm, bright, submissive and friendly after their reconciliation.

Happy and more in love than ever before, their return home resembles a joyous, honeymoon-like trip. He picks her up in his arms to help her board the tram - and cross the threshold. Now things are very different - their return trip by tram and boat is joyous and full of laughter unlike before. She speaks of the honeymoon they are experiencing in their peaceful sail back home: "We'll sail home by moonlight...another honeymoon." They are idyllically content - she lies peacefully in her husband's arms as they sail across the moon-lit, mirror-surfaced lake. Eventually, she falls asleep in his arms and he gently covers her with a scarf.

Midway across, a sudden storm blows up, lightning strikes in the sky and thunder rolls (conveyed in the music and sound effects). Residents in the city and amusement-park visitors scurry for shelter. She continues to sleep while the storm blows up, rages about them, and makes the little boat rock on the waves - a symbol of her total trust in him. Frantically, he lowers the sail and begins rowing until one of the oars in the tiny boat snaps, making rowing impossible. She awakens and clings to him for refuge. He ties the bulrushes that he had intended to use to save himself to his wife's body to save her [a reversal of his original intentions]. The sail mast snaps, and the boat capsizes in the turbulent water of the violent storm. He is washed ashore to a rocky embankment, but apparently she is tragically lost. The storm subsides and the moon appears. He drags himself out of the water onto the rocks and calls for her - simulated by the plaintive French horns on the soundtrack - but there is no answer.

Roused from their beds at night, neighbors are called to begin a search, and they rush to the water's edge. The city vamp awakens and watches from a distance, believing that the murder plan has successfully been carried out. She removes her thin negligee and dresses into heavier clothes to watch the rescue effort from a closer distance. A search party is assembled - they search in boats with lamplights for the missing woman. From a fork in a tree, the vamp watches what she believes is the convincing act of the Man distraught with grief. The half-mad husband searches for his wife at the bow of the first boat with a lantern extended out in his hand. In a stationary frame, the wife is pictured floating unconscious in the water - she floats into and then out of the picture (from the top left to bottom right) on the bulrushes. Again, the French horns simulate the husband's desperate calls for his wife.

Some of the bulrushes are found scattered on the water, entangled with remnants of her scarf. She is presumed drowned when there is no sign of her. The dazed husband collapses in the boat, is comforted and then led back to his farmhouse by neighbors. When he looks down at his wife's empty bed and falls weeping to his knees, the room is streaked with somber shadows. Church bells ring just before the seductive city woman approaches him in the night and signals him with a whistle. She assumes that his emotional reaction is part of the deception, but in a sudden fury, the husband rages at her in frustration - appearing like a crazed Frankenstein monster. He pursues her - attacking and strangling her over a fence in his despair.

Just as he is about to kill her, he hears a happy outcry from his mother (signaled again by French horns) announcing that his wife has been found - unconscious but alive. He releases his strangling grip around the vamp's neck and rushes to his wife's bedside and they are joyously reunited. She opens her eyes and smiles at him with an angelic face. The fortunate searcher explains how he found her:

...I couldn't give up hope, I know the tides...I went around the Point...

The next morning, as the sun rises, the spurned city mistress makes a hasty exit, returning back to the metropolis in a horse-drawn carriage. In the farmhouse, the husband attentively sits by his wife at her bedside, where she sleeps with their infant until the dawn's light appears. Now with long-flowing hair after releasing her tight bun, she opens her eyes and turns her head on the pillow toward her husband. Their lips slowly draw together for a kiss, dissolving into the bright rays of an art-deco sun filling the screen.

The word "Finis" floats upward to take the place of the sun as the music dramatically swells.

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