Irisz Leiter returns from an upbringing in exile in Trieste to her birthplace in Budapest. She finds her parent’s prestigious millinery shop, still bearing the family name despite its demise. However, the very mention of the name Leiter engenders unexplained hostility in the new manager and his troupe of elegant and obedient young women. Irisz is regarded with extreme suspicion which extends to outright fury from many quarters, from the aristocracy to the rabble underworld who populate and threaten the city. This is something to do with the brother she didn’t know existed, who has a reputation for unleashing evil.
Director: Laszlo Nemes
Cast: Juli Jakab, I
Vlad Ivanov, Marcin Czarnik
“Sunset is imbued with the force of nature from a determined, young, female protagonist given by the commendable Juli Jakab. It is her point of view and her triumph in the face of adversity that resounds in this dystopian Magyar costume drama."
The plot in Sunset is more than tricky to garner and the film struggles from one cryptic scene to another. The dialogue is halted and abstract. As one character queries, another digresses or simply ignores by staring away, and it is hard to unravel what is happening or going to happen.
The cinematography is impressive owing to Matyas Erdely (as is the costume and mise-en-scene). However, the shots are mostly dark interiors or restricted to courtyard location and the camera is nearly always close on the back of Irisz’s head. This sits with the mood of the film, but it is positively claustrophobic for the viewer.
What is most striking about Sunset is the objectification of subservient young women both working class (the shop girls) and the aristocracy (the Hungarian countess and the Austrian princess). The marauding men are fearsome, but so are the aristocrats from Austria who snatch and abuse young women with the same disregard. It is an unsettling portrayal of the Austro-Hungarian empire as the First World War looms. But, Sunset is also imbued with the force of nature from a determined, young, female protagonist given by the commendable Juli Jakab. It is her point of view and her triumph in the face of adversity that resounds in this dystopian Magyar costume drama.
Reviewed (Official Competition) LFF 2018: 16th October