City Girl (1930) was F.W.Murnau’s final Hollywood movie. Disputes with FOX Studios over adding sound to the movie led Murnau to quit Hollywood and head for the south pacific.
FOX made a sound version of the movie, but it flopped on release and has since been lost. The silent version however is a masterpiece in the mold of Sunrise. Kate, a waitress in a city restaurant, is lonely and unhappy in the sprawling metropolis and dreams of a life in the countryside, When the charming Lem appears – tasked with selling his father’s wheat crop on the city markets – it seems that Kate’s dream may come true. Married, they arrive back at Lem’s farm to a tornado of violence and abuse from Lem’s spitefiul father.
Murnau paints a rich picture of life in the American mid-west during the great depression. The camera work is stunning, contrastingthe vast open landscapes of the wheat fields with clautrophobic interiors filled with light and shadow, in a manner that owes a great deal to Murnau’s German expressionist background.
The story is notable for its depiction of a woman taking risks to control her own life amongst difficult circumstances, and the movie is full of strong emotion.
The score is a mixture of romantic, minimal and western.