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Sunshine (1999)

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Ratings: 7.5/10 from 10,154 users   Metascore: 71/100
Reviews: 117 user | 65 critic | 26 from Metacritic.com

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

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Title: Sunshine (1999)

Sunshine (1999) on IMDb 7.5/10

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

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Ignatz Sonnenschein / Adam Sors / Ivan Sors
...
Valerie Sors
...
Greta
...
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
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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:

En skæbnefortælling om tre generationer i kamp for at overleve. [Denmark] 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:

 »
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Details

Country:

| | |

Language:

|

Release Date:

17 December 1999 (Canada)  »

Also Known As:

The Taste of Sunshine  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

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

Gross:

$5,095,981 (USA) (2 February 2001)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »
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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 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 »

Quotes

Ivan Sors: [speaking to the graveside of Andor Knorr] Andor Knorr, one of your murderers has come to your grave, to say goodbye to you. I was your first interrogator, someone who you trained to defend the cause without mercy. We believed we were going to make the world better place for people, but, instead, we made it so much worse. As servants of power-hungry criminals, we became criminals. Our politicians lied to the people by saying they were doing good. And then the people lied to the politicians by ...
See more »

Connections

References Citizen Kane (1941) See more »

Soundtracks

Dunnyuska
Performed by Miklós Tabányi
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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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