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Sunset

(Napszállta)

By the director of Son Of Saul

Sunset, from director László Nemes (Son Of Saul), is astonishingly beautiful and profoundly sorrowful: It unfolds like a cross between a memory and a dream, the kind so vivid you’ll swear it was real.

Poster for Hungarian period drama SunsetSet in 1913, Sunset tells of Írisz Leiter (Juli Jakab), a 20-year-old orphan who returns to her hometown of Budapest for the first time since childhood and discovers that, not only does she have a brother, but he’s said to have murdered a count five years earlier and gone into hiding. Her parents owned a prestigious hat shop in the city, and following their death in a fire many years earlier, the store still carries their name but no other trace of them. No one Írisz speaks to wants to tell her anything, making the film a kind of first-person mystery. Everyone she meets treats her warily, as though she’s somehow complicit in the crimes of the sibling she never knew.

The film takes place over just a few short days, with roving long takes and extended real-time sequences that make you feel as though you’re right there alongside Írisz. Jakab, with her arresting face and ocean-deep eyes, says little but expresses much, often so caught up in the chaos and confusion engulfing her that all she can do is keep moving through the dreamlike experience.

Sunset invites you to revel in the last moments of Budapest’s pre-war grandeur even as you mourn what will soon befall it. This is cinema with a capital ‘C’, the kind of film that image-makers will lust after as they study its many awe-inspiring scenes. One such sequence begins at a late-night soirée that quickly turns bloody, ending with Írisz narrowly escaping the ordeal and looking on as torches illuminate the nighttime violence. Like the film as a whole, it’s as harrowing as it is breathtaking.

“The horror of the world hides behind these infinitely pretty things”, one of the shadowy men tells Írisz. Sunset exposes that horror while also finding great beauty in it – it might not be infinitely pretty, but it’s worth remembering and preserving nevertheless.

– Michael Nordine, Indiewire

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