Best of
lMovie Review
By Mira Harber
   The grand, sweeping, epic film "Sunshine" follows the history of three generations of a family of Hungarian Jews. It is three hours long, but don't let that scare you – “Sunshine” is a masterful film, written and directed by Istvan Szabo (he also directed the films Mephisto & Colonel Redl).
   We first meet the Sonnenschein (the name means sunshine in Hungarian) family in the 1890's. Ralph Fiennes, in something of a tour de force, plays three generations of men in this family - grandfather, father and grandson. The central dilemma that each member of the family faces is that of assimilation. These people consider themselves first and foremost Hungarians. They just want to fit in and live their lives. In order to make their way in the world, at some point, each man must choose between his ethics and expediency. In the first generation, ambitious Ignatz (Fiennes) marries his beautiful, first cousin Valerie (Jennifer Ehle) and changes his name to Sors, a 'suitable' Hungarian name, in order to rise in the legal profession. As he rises in the world he changes into a man in love with success and power.
   His son Adam (Fiennes), becomes a lawyer, and talented fencer. He converts to Catholicism in order to compete with the best, ultimately at the Olympics. Adam is totally apolitical - he wants only to fence and is fiercely passionate about being an assimilated Hungarian. In the 1936 Olympics he wins a gold medal as part of the Hungarian fencing team but, despite his conversion and changed name, he is sent to a concentration camp.
   His son Ivan (later played by Fiennes) survives the camp and joins the Communist party as a rising young star. His mentor and friend is wonderfully played by William Hurt, in a best-supporting actor kind of role. One kind of totalitarianism is yet again replaced by another. When the Russians ride into Hungary on tanks, the director very effectively combines original black and white footage to the forceful chords of Beethoven's “Egmont Overture.”
    As Valerie (now the matriach of the family) ages, her role is taken on by the luminous Rosemary Harris (and real life mother of  Jennifer Ehle). She has survived rule by the Emporer, Nazi's and now Communism - three different forms of totalitarianism.
In the end though, the message of the film is one of hope.
   My Hungarian friend had one complaint about the movie. It wasn't in Hungarian! It would certainly have added an extra dimension to hear the film in Hungarian, but then how many people would sit through three hours of sub-titles? I'm happy that “Sunshine” is now in Buffalo, whatever the language. It is one of the best films that have been released this year, make sure you catch it.


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