Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Sunrise (1927) at the Coolidge Corner Theatre

Last evening, Kevin and I attended a special screening of Sunrise (1927). It was part of the Coolidge Corner Theater's ongoing series, The Sounds of Silents. If you recall, back in October I had seen Steamboat Bill Jr. (1928) at the theater with live musical accompaniment.

While I loved that experience, it does not top the amazing, astounding, knock-me-off-my-seat experience I had watching Sunrise (1927) on the big screen. Here are some details about the music that accompanied the movie.

  • Berklee College of Music
  • Course Semester Project
  • 8 students composers, each composes musical score for one reel and conduct the musicians during that reel while it's playing.
  • 10 member orchestra complete with violin, cello, flute, trumpet, percussion, etc.
  • Next up: It (1927) with Clara Bow in May 2011, will be composed and performed in the same manner.

F.W. Murnau's Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927) is at it's core a love story. We start off at the lowest point, The Man (George O'Brien) is cheating on The Wife (Janet Gaynor) with The Woman from the City (Margaret Livingston). They don't have real names because their story is univseral. It's a case of disillusionment, the madonna/whore complex, and the battle between lust and love. The Woman from the City, who smokes like a chimney and wears polished pumps seduces The Man and convinces him to kill The Wife and sell the farm so they can move to the city together. The Man, blinded by lust, plots to do this but he can't bring himself to kill The Wife who is the epitome of love and innocence. The Wife escapes into the city with The Man following her and they accidentally embark on an adventure that has them falling in love with each other all over again. This movie touches me deeply. It made me appreciate the love I have and made me realize to not take it for granted. I went home from the experience with a heart bursting with love.

The music was fantastic. The students did such a superb job composing, conducting and performing the number. I enjoyed small details like the trumpet playing to represent a dog barking, a flute playing to represent whistling and bells playing to represent fireworks. It's details like those that I love. Unlike my previous experiences with experimental music and classic film, this music was your standard classic fare. And you know what, I loved it? At times, I found my foot tapping to the beat and at other times my heart started to race when the music built up momentum to reflect the rising conflict that was happening on screen. At the end, the musicians and composers got a standing ovation. I clapped so hard my hands hurt and my eyes began to fill up with tears. It was one of the most fantastic experiences of my life. Kudos to the Berklee College of Music for such an amazing night. You did justice to the masterpiece that is Murnau's Sunrise (1927).


  1. Sounds absolutely marvelous. I can only imagine what that evening was like.

    "Sunrise" is one of the most transcendent viewing experiences I've ever had, and that was on DVD. I can only imagine what it was like to see it on the big screen with a live orchestra.

    Hopefully everyone else in the audience appreciated it as much as you did. Thanks for the write-up.

  2. This sounds so wonderful, it made me happy just reading of your great enjoyment of the evening. Thanks for sharing a terrific experience!

    Best wishes,

  3. I agree with Kevin--I've only seen "Sunrise" on Turner Classics (& have it on a VHS tape from that time); it's one of the greatest films I've ever seen--how lucky for you to see it in a theater with live music (& good live music at that!) Jealous!

  4. Spectacular. I've also only seen it on the small screen, and can only imagine the fullness of the experience in this theater setting with live orchestral accompaniment. Thanks for taking us along.

  5. Seriously, Berklee College of Music was one of my top 3 choices for school when I was deciding about a music career. To do something like this would have been an absolute dream come true. Isn't it amazing how music can completely change the feeling of a movie? Just the small chime of bells or a lone note held by a flute can change everything. Love it! So so glad you were able to experience this! SO neat!

  6. Kevin - Thank you so much. I hope everyone else loved it as much as I did. I'm sure they did because of that standing ovation!

    Laura - I'm so glad you liked my post. I think both you and I appreciate watching films on the big screen, in nice theaters. It adds to the experience. Live music just makes it better.

    John - You of all people would have loved it, especially since you have performed music for silent films.

    Jacqueline - Thanks for stopping by and for your nice comment.

    Danielle- I thought of you during the flute number! Did you end up going somewhere for music? Where did you go? I think you would have really loved this performance.

  7. Sunrise WAS amazing. My boyfriend was one of the composers (the first reel, where she was whistling with the flute) and I found myself in tears at the end too! I was so proud of them all...they worked so hard and put many, many hours into this project. What wonderful music came out of it... :)

  8. Great experience. I can wonder how beautiful the experience was. I will try to get a DVD so that I can also feel the magic.


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