I think the problem that you may be having with the film is that they are not stereotypes. Now before you get defensive, consider what I mean..
I think you want the woman to be "like most women today", or "most women you know". Because she is NOT behaving according to your own pre-expectations that you've brought to the cinema, you cannot wrap yourself around the film enough to accept it as a fanctional melodrama. This woman is unlike yourself, or those you know or encounter or perceive to be your sociological peers, so you have difficulty with the film.
I think there's definitely something to what you say here. I can obviously only watch this film in the context of my own thoughts and the time I live in, and I think you're probably right that part of my problem is that the archetypes on display here are very much out of date in today's world. This is clearly not the fault of the film itself, but for me it affected my enjoyment. The characters are still stereotypes, but they're stereotypes of a different age. It's not my only problem, though...
But, in terms of discussion about "failings", films, some of the most magnificent, are about all kinds of crazy people engaging in all kinds of ridiculousness... The point is not whether or not the audience would behave as all characters onscreen would, the point is whether or not this tale of very different people in a very different place takes you away. Can you watch PANIC IN NEEDLE PARK even though you don't inject heroin intravenously? Watch TAXI DRIVER even though you're not teetering in white boy masturbatory hell and lash out in a murder spree?
Well, you're somewhat misunderstanding my point. It's not that I wouldn't behave the ways these characters do, which is frankly immaterial, as you say. I wouldn't behave like the men in Eric Rohmer's films either, but the crucial difference is that those films don't require the audience to identify with the men onscreen. We're not supposed to be rooting for Jean-Claude Brialy to score with Claire in Claire's Knee
. To keep with the Rohmer example for a moment, his films explore the ideas and motivations of male characters who many would call misogynistic, and though he humanizes these characters to the point that we can understand them and to some extent sympathize with them, the films still work even if we find them to be utterly deplorable characters.
, on the other hand, ceases to work for an audience who is not rooting for the couple. I guess the film convinced you, but I didn't see anything in its city segment that justified the woman getting over her husband's prior murderous streak. For me, it's as if Claire's Knee
had ended on an upbeat note with Jerome and Claire getting together -- it rings false. There's no indication that the man in Sunrise
is a particularly great husband, or that the couple is so wonderful -- to some extent, the scene with the pig only emphasizes their incompatibility -- that the great turnaround is justified. If the film was simply presenting these events in a more neutral tone, I probably would have no problem with it, since then there would be room in the film for my thoughts about the relationship. As it is, the film only grants one possible interpretation, and it's not the interpretation that I came up with.
Your example of wife-beating is actually instructive as well. I have no problem believing there are wives who continually go back to abusive husbands, just as there are probably wives submissive enough to even overlook an occasional murder threat. I mean, of course these people exist. But it's the way it's presented in the film that matters. I'd have the same problems with a film that required a positive interpretation of a woman going back to her abusive husband. For me, a film that ends by reuniting a woman with her husband who wanted to kill her, is at the very least a bittersweet ending, awakening fairly complex emotions. There are none of these shadings in the second half of Sunrise
-- after a relatively brief weepy period, the tone of the film becomes one of unleavened joy.