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“Sunset” A Period Piece Mystery





Review by John Delia

With a huge cast of fine actors, nice cinematography, amazing period costumes, perfect locations and dynamic direction the drama Sunset enters this weekend’s theatrical releases. Although a bit long and drawn out, the movie, laced with history that complements the storyline, becomes a showy drama that plays out seamlessly for lovers of mystery period pieces.

It’s the early 1900’s and in the heart of Europe the old Austro-Hungarian Empire reigns over many nations and resonates with the commotion of their several languages. The new metropolis of Budapest, sister city and rival of Vienna, thrives and has become known throughout the world. One of the most notable businesses is women’s clothing and especially hats that are the rage as we enter our story.

Juli Jakab as Irisz Leiter
Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

Away from her family’s renowned women’s hat business Leiters since she was two when her parents died in a fire, Írisz Leiter (Juli Jakab) returns to Budapest in search for closure and a possible job at hat makers. Arriving unannounced, manager Zelma (Evelin Dobos) seems a little disconcerted and surprised. She quickly contacts the now owner Oszkár Brill (Vlad Ivanov) who agrees to see Irisz.

Having no recollection of the events that took place concerning the fire that killed her parents, and has been schooled in hat making in the village in which she was brought up, she implores Brill to take her in and give her a job. Refused, but not wanting to leave, Irisz stays on in Budapest waiting for a chance to prove herself. The villagers are wary of her since five years prior to her arrival here, her brother was accused of the murder of Count Redey.

Juli Jakab as Irisz Leiter, Vlad Ivanov as Oszkar Brill
Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

Confused and yet determined, Irisz starts her pursuit of answers to the past and the desire to become part of her parent’s former business. In her path are several key figures that do not want her to obtain the information that may bring about the awful truth. Also on the horizon is a rebellion lead by an adamant man who will stop at nothing to take down the aristocracy.

The acting is superb, the costuming spot on and the presentation reminds me of many of the classics that have become so because of the depiction of a certain period of time. Director Laszlo Nemes moves his film along at a slow pace with camera shots that dig into to the character’s personalities by their expressions and body language. It’s a good technique for making his audience understand each scene, especially since the film plays out in the Hungarian and German languages. But, it does make the film lag a bit and made me anxious to move on to more of the plot.

Evelin Dobos as Zelma, Vlad Ivanov as Oszkar Brill
Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

Commanding the screen throughout the nearly two and a half hour film is the delightful and inexhaustible performance by Juli Jakab. She grabs attention from the very start of the film and never relinquishes it until the final minute. Her expression filled acting leaves no question as to where she stands on her desires, questions and final outcomes of finding the truth. Although mostly serious during the film, her smile even tells a lot about what she has accomplished.

Sunset has been rated R by the MPAA for some violence. But, I cannot believe the “raters” were fully awake during their showing as there is a lot of violence that’s extreme, sounds of rape off-screen, brutality that includes hair pulling of women being dragged across a room, slapping of women by men, and other brutalities. The movie would have been much more satisfying if the language barrier were not there, but if you are okay with films in a foreign language, this one does deliver.

FINAL ANALYSIS: A nice costume period piece with a good mystery plot. (3.5 out of 5 Stars)

Additional Film Information:
Cast: Juli Jakab, Vlad Ivanov, Evelin Dobos, Marcin Czarnik, Benjamin Dino, Levente Molnár, Julia Jakubowska, Christian Harting, Sándor Zsótér, Dorottya Moldován, Judit Bárdos, Susanne Wuest, Tom Pilath
Directed and written by: Laszlo Nemes
Genre: Drama
MPAA Rating: R for some violence. Contains brutality, extreme violence and forced sex
Running Time: 2 hrs. 21 min.
Opening Date: May 3, 2019
Distributed by: Sony Pictures Classics
Released in: Standard

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