Sunrise: A Song Of Two Humans Blu-ray Review

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by Mark Botwright Oct 8, 2009 at 12:00 AM

  • Movies review


    Sunrise: A Song Of Two Humans Blu-ray Review
    SRP: £24.99


    Sunrise comes to Blu-ray with a 1080p image encoded using the AVC codec. Due to there being two versions of the film available on the disc, they each have a different aspect ratio, with the Movietone being 1.20:1 and Czech being 1.37:1.

    As explained in the accompanying 20 page booklet, those behind the Masters of Cinema range “decided against HD-DVNR, MTI, other forms of digital restoration, or grain removal, after tests revealed noticeable disruption of the film's “sfumato” qualities in many scenes....The level of damage still present is exactly what you would see if you were to project this same 35mm film restoration theatrically”. Indeed, there is little evidence that these words are anything other than the complete truth.

    I fail to see how this could have looked much better without destroying the intrinsically filmic nature of the print. The Czech version is clearly the better, with surprisingly strong contrast and noticeably sharper visuals. The Movietone iteration isn't any great slouch for a film of 1927, but when projected the loss of detail in faces in the mid distance becomes apparent and the lighter overall shades of grey lack the punch some of the darker shadows in the Czech option have.

    As one would expect, there is print damage that is abundantly clear in both, but it is far from the worst you will see, and given the age of the film it is not as distracting as one might expect. There are the usual problems with fare of such age; fluctuations, flickering etc but the Czech print is by the far the better in this regards. Overall, I can't see what more could have been done, as this is presented minus any glaring processing techniques and, unless someone uncovers a dusty canister with a pristine print that has been well preserved, looks just about as good as I think it ever will, with the Czech version in particular having a very pleasing image full of detail and strong contrast.
    Sunrise: A Song Of Two Humans Picture


    Sound options for Sunrise are threefold. There are two tracks for the Movietone version, the original score in Dolby TrueHD 2.0 (mono) and Timothy Brock's alternate arrangement performed by the Olympic Chamber Orchestra in Dolby TrueHD 2.0, which was recorded in stereo. The third choice is the only track available on the Czech version of the film, which is a Dolby TrueHD 2.0 general adaptation by Fox of the original score from 2008.

    As with the image, this seems just about as much as we could realistically possibly hope for. The Timothy Brock score is the crisper in its details, with greater dynamic range going well from high to low frequencies. It feels as though it has that bit more breathing room at both ends that might make some viewers feel the original is just a touch constrictive. However, I'd wager if all you're looking for is great range and acute detail to your sounds then I doubt you're viewing such a film as Sunrise to show off your sound system.

    The original score is as good as it's ever likely to be, with no major distractions as often found associated with such dated material. It makes for an altogether darker tone to many scenes and as such the film as a whole takes on a slightly skewed and profoundly expressionistic bent. The cacophony of sounds that accompany the vacationist's montage is well rounded and the individual instruments don't muddy into one another as they might have done in a poor mix. Overall, there's little to really say about a 2.0 track other than how well it recreates the original sounds, and these tracks do so with great success.
    Sunrise: A Song Of Two Humans Sound


    20 page booklet

    It may not seem like the most cutting edge extra, but give it a moments pause and you'll see it is the kind of little bonus that film fans should welcome. It isn't packed to the brim, but it does contain the kind of information anyone interested in the Blu-ray will want to be aware of. As with all the Masters of Cinema releases, it is put together in a straightforward manner, and has clearly been designed by people who care about the subject matter. Hardly groundbreaking but certainly of worth.

    Commentary with John Bailey

    Available as an audio track for the Movietone version of the film, this may seem a little dry for some, yet is in my opinion one of the best examples of a thoroughly informative commentary track. Bailey, of the American Society of Cinematographers, informs the viewer on a myriad of technical details that are explained well and will be of great interest to film fans who value the history of the medium.

    Sunrise outtakes - 480p - 9:56

    Various unused, long forgotten snippets that range from brief seconds of miscellaneous shots, to longer versions and alternate takes. Thankfully John Bailey is on hand again in an optional commentary to talk us through the differences from the final cut. Understandably the print quality is poor as this was discarded film that wasn't properly stored but only the churlish would claim this to be a flaw as the value lies in just being able to view this rare footage.

    Sunrise trailer - 480p - 1:50

    A nice period trailer for the film, it is the usual array of clips overlaid by quotes from esteemed reviews of the day and some wonderful vintage graphics.

    4-Devils - the lost film of F.W. Muranu - 480p - 40:56

    Film historian Janet Bergstrom's documentary is part factual informative essay and part re-enactment. Taking any scrap of documentation regarding the lost film, she retells the story via way of the script, production stills and early artwork. It is fascinating to watch, as she pauses at given points to ponder the direction Murnau might have taken, or give her educated opinion as to why the materials at her disposal may not be representative of the finished article. It gives us probably the best indication of what the film itself entailed and the overall mood and artistic style utilised.

    A fine set of extras that cater directly to their audience of interested film fans who will surely be pleased by the wealth of information on offer.
    Sunrise: A Song Of Two Humans Extras


    Once again we are presented with a release from Eureka's Masters of Cinema range that proves to be a resounding success. Made for film enthusiast by film enthusiasts, it is little wonder that they continue to aim their resources in the directions that matter, namely reproduction of the source material with as little potentially negative processing techniques applied. This proves to be the case with Sunrise as the images on both versions of the film are kept true to their filmic state.

    You'd be forgiven for assuming that extras were an area of mere afterthought for such a title, yet those that are available here are of the utmost quality. The commentary track by John Bailey and the feature about Murnau's lost film 4-Devils by Janet Bergstrom are unashamedly academic in nature and thus free from fluff. They pack in as much detail as possible about their subject and leave it up to the viewer as to whether they find the material itself engaging or not. Personally, I found these to be absolutely fascinating, and Bailey's comments are indispensable in understanding the plethora of technical trickery involved in many shots of Sunrise.

    Overall this is a Blu-ray that deserves your attention, with a film that demands to be seen by all, packaged in a disc with an image and audio presentation that is hard to fault and extras that only add to the experience and give the viewer much needed knowledge. It is entirely fitting that this is marked number one in the catalogue of Masters of Cinema releases.
    Suggested retail price when reviewed: £24.99

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