In Murnaus silent film Sunrise, the Woman represents the active allure of the City, the Wife represents the settled life of the rural countryside, and the Man/Husband represents the conflict between urban/rural life. What Sunrise tells us about Americas conflicting notions of city versus country values is that no matter where one is one is likely to find the same issues of virtue warring with vice. Indeed, the opening titles say as much: For wherever the sun rises and setsin the citys turmoil or under the open sky on the farm, life is much the same; sometimes bitter, sometimes sweet. Some evidence of this is the fact that Man and his Wife are not happy in the country for whatever reason, and the Man is tempted to murder his Wife by the Woman from the City, who promises some kind of grass-is-greener happiness. Yet in the city the Man and Wife witness a marriage and renew their vow to one another after a fun-filled day. On their return to their home in the countryside, they face a violent tempest that nearly kills them both. The point is that in both the city and the country, there is a sense of danger but also one of greatness. Nonetheless, the film does suggest that country values offer something that is more comforting than the nameless, anonymous pleasure, rush and thrill of city life. The contrast between city values and country values are in fact made evident right from the open: the city values technology and motion; the country values space and leisure. In the closing of the film, it is the sense of family and community that stand out as true country values in contrast to the passion of the city.

The film opens with a locomotive leaving the busy city and heading for the serenity…

The people disembark at a lakeside resort, which blends the business of city life with the serenity of the countryside. It is here that the viewer is introduced to the Woman, focused on her appearance, lighting a cigarette with a candle, wearing skimpy negligee. She is the temptress come to seduce the Man away from the country, his wife and duties there. She looks in the windows of a home she passes as though a tourist in a shopping center thinking to herself how the items inside might look nice in her own life. Finally she reaches the home of the Man and whistles for him. She wants him in her lifeeven though he is already married. What this suggests is that the City and its values are different from the Country and its values: Country values are family and commitment, honor and faithfulness. City values are different: in the city everything is commodified; everything is for sale. The Man hears the whistle and for him it is like the song of the sirens, calling him to a catastrophic fate. The troubled expression on his face indicates that he recognizes the danger. He slowly gets up and staggers to the door, but is stopped briefly by the appearance of his wife, who is dutifully setting the table for dinner. He feels dejected, aware that he is about to betray his wife, troubled in his soul. He is hunched over as though his conscience were weighing heavily on his shoulders. He sees the table, set for a twoit represents the values of home, hearth, heart and family. Then he looks to the window where outside an adulteress lurks, trying to steal him away from all he should value there. What she offers to him is the fun and fancy-free of the city life, where one is constantly on the go, running after a million distractions in a dizzying escapade, free from want, guilt or conscienceat least that is the song that the siren sings.

The neighbors see all and comment that the Man and the Wife used to be so happy and innocent and there is a flashback to the Wife with a baby in her arms as the Man approaches behind the farm animals, plowing the fields. He dances and plays with the baby and then gets back to work. It is a moment of peace and happiness from earlier…

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