Sunshine (1999)

R  |   |  Drama, History, Romance  |  14 July 2000 (USA)
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The fate of a Hungarian Jewish family throughout the 20th century.



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Nominated for 3 Golden Globes. Another 11 wins & 14 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Ignatz Sonnenschein / Adam Sors / Ivan Sors
Valerie Sors
Valerie Sonnenschein
Maj. Carole Kovács
Hannah Wippler
Gustave Sonnenschein
David de Keyser ...
Emmanuel Sonnenschein
Gustave Sors
Rose Sonnenschein
Rüdiger Vogler ...
Gen. Jakofalvy
István Sors
Minister of Justice
Comrade Gen. Kope
Hanns Zischler ...
Baron Margitta


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 <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


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


Drama | History | Romance | War

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

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

Parents Guide:




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Release Date:

14 July 2000 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Taste of Sunshine  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$84,869 (USA) (9 June 2000)


$5,095,981 (USA) (2 February 2001)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


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


When fencing for the gold medal, Adam Sors' opponent has his foot way across the line at the start. This would never be allowed at the Olympics. See more »


Ivan Sors: For the first time in my life, I walked down the street without feeling like I was in hiding. My great grandfather Emmanuel must have been the last Sonnenschein to feel like this. I knew the only way to find meaning in my life, my only chance in life, would be to account for it. My grandmother's words return to me; "Try to photograph what's beautiful in life." By the time I finish this story, the third tragic misadventure of the 20th century was over. After the monarchy and fascist rule, the ...
See more »


References Citizen Kane (1941) See more »


Radetzky Marsch
Written by Johann Strauss Sr.
Performed by Budapest Concert Orchestra
See more »

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User Reviews

Compelling, powerful and insightful
13 August 2001 | by (Atlanta, GA) – See 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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