7.5/10
12,397
125 user 67 critic

Sunshine (1999)

The fate of a Hungarian Jewish family throughout the 20th century.

Director:

István Szabó

Writers:

István Szabó (story), István Szabó (screenplay) | 1 more credit »

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Nominated for 3 Golden Globes. Another 12 wins & 14 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Ralph Fiennes ... Ignatz Sonnenschein / Adam Sors / Ivan Sors
Rosemary Harris ... Valerie Sors
Rachel Weisz ... Greta
Jennifer Ehle ... Valerie Sonnenschein
Deborah Kara Unger ... Maj. Carole Kovács
Molly Parker ... Hannah Wippler
James Frain ... Gustave Sonnenschein
David de Keyser David de Keyser ... Emmanuel Sonnenschein
John Neville ... Gustave Sors
Miriam Margolyes ... Rose Sonnenschein
Rüdiger Vogler ... Gen. Jakofalvy
Mark Strong ... István Sors
Bill Paterson ... Minister of Justice
Trevor Peacock ... Comrade Gen. Kope
Hanns Zischler ... Baron Margitta
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Storyline

The film follows a Jewish family living in Hungary through three generations, rising from humble beginnings to positions of wealth and power in the crumbling Austro-Hungarian Empire. The patriarch becomes a prominent judge but is torn when his government sanctions anti-Jewish persecutions. His son converts to Christianity to advance his career as a champion fencer and Olympic hero, but is caught up in the Holocaust. Finally, the grandson, after surviving war, revolution, loss and betrayal, realizes that his ultimate allegiance must be to himself and his heritage. Written by <gatsby@freemail.hu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

In a time of revolution, in a family torn by tradition, one man was consumed by love. See more »

Genres:

Drama | History | Romance | War

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for strong sexuality, and for violence, language and nudity | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

Germany | Austria | Canada | Hungary | France | UK | USA

Language:

English | French

Release Date:

14 July 2000 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Taste of Sunshine See more »

Filming Locations:

Hungary See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$84,869, 11 June 2000

Gross USA:

$5,095,981
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Jennifer Ehle, who plays Young Valerie, is the daughter of Rosemary Harris, who plays Older Valerie. See more »

Goofs

When Adam Sors returns to Budapest after the 1936 Olympics, there is a brief shot of the train station in Budapest showing several Bzmot type trains that were first put in use in 1977. See more »

Quotes

Adam Sors: We are afraid to see clearly and of being seen clearly.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Diamond Tongues (2015) See more »

Soundtracks

The Sonnenscheins
(end title)
Composed by Maurice Jarre
Performed by Catherine Bott and Rundfunk Sinfonieorchester Berlin (as Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchestra Berlin)
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Compelling, powerful and insightful
13 August 2001 | by FlickJunkie-2See all my reviews

`Sunshine' is a forceful and wonderful film that follows four generations of a Jewish Hungarian family through seventy tumultuous years of Hungarian history. The story is extremely well done with rich finely etched characters. The screenplay is better suited for a miniseries than a three hour film simply because there is so much material to cover. Three hours is both too long and too short; the story is emotionally exhausting making it too long for one sitting, yet the total length is not long enough to do the subject matter justice.

Hungarian Writer/Director Istvan Szabo captures Hungary's turbulent transition from empire to fascist state to soviet satellite weaving the history of the times into the lives of this extraordinary family. He puts a human face on the historical facts giving us a disturbingly real look at what it might have been like to live through it, especially from the Jewish perspective.

Despite a whirlwind pace that requires years to be spanned in minutes, Szabo manages to conjure deep and insightful character studies of the members of each generation. His period renderings are exquisite from costumes to props to locations. This is a wonderfully textured presentation with history layered over the human stories, addressing the many indignities suffered by Jews in Hungary during the period, and the many concessions made to merely stay alive. It is a story that contains both triumph and tragedy, presented with amazing candor.

Ralph Fiennes gives three incredible performances as the grandfather, father and son of the patriarchy. Szabo has endured criticism for casting the same actor in three roles, but in this case it is an excellent choice. Fiennes is a versatile artist and personalizes three radically different characters, slipping on their personalities like a glove. He loses himself in each, rendering them all passionately but appropriately based on the motivations established in Szabo's careful character development. With Szabo's guidance, it is clear that Fiennes has an inherent understanding of the psyche of his three characters and plays them with believable nuance.

Two different actresses play Valerie and each is splendid. Jennifer Ehle plays the young Valerie and endows her with ardor and vivacity. She establishes Valerie as the strongest continuing character in the film, providing linkage between the past and the present. In another stroke of casting brilliance, Szabo selects Ehle's real life mother, Rosemary Harris as the elder Valerie. The clear resemblance linked with Harris' magnetic performance adds fullness to Valerie's later years. William Hurt and James Frain lead an ensemble of strong supporting actors that give the film great intensity and depth of talent.

This thoughtful and emotionally provocative character study is engrossing and compelling. I rated it a 9/10 only because I wish Szabo would have gone deeper and divided it into two or three installments. On a dramatic and artistic level, this film is first rate.


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