Murnau’s silent film masterpiece ‘Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans’ comes to Epsilon Spires

BRATTLEBORO — F. W. Murnau's silent masterpiece Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927, 95 minutes) will be shown at Epsilon Spires on Friday, May 19, at 8 p.m. This screening will feature live accompaniment on the historic Estey organ performed by Jeff Rapsis, a New England silent-film accompanist.

Sunrise tells the story of a farmer who becomes infatuated with a mysterious woman from the city and agrees to murder his wife and sell his farm to start a new life with her.

In this stylish, ambitious film - Murnau's first in America - big-budget Hollywood and German Expressionism merge in a work of art featuring expansive sets and innovative cinematography. “The camera disorients audiences with shots filmed upside-down and in reverse and plays with perspective by using smaller furniture and diminutive actors to manipulate the depth of field,” according to the news release.

A commercial failure at the time, Sunrise went on to win three Academy Awards (for Best Actress, Cinematography, and Unique and Artistic Picture). It has since become widely considered one of the greatest films of all time, with a spot on both the American Film Institute's (#82) and British Film Institute's (#11) lists.

Rapsis is a writer, editor, educator, composer, and performer who specializes in creating live musical scores for silent film screenings. He has accompanied silent film programs in venues throughout New England since 2007. His technique, organizers say, is to create a set of original music in advance for each film, and then improvise a score based on this material as the screening takes place.

Tickets for this event are on a sliding scale of $5 to $20. Purchase at $2 from every ticket goes directly toward the historic preservation of the venue. Refreshments will be provided.

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