|By Mira Harber
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.”
(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.
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