Director: László Nemes
Cast: Juli Jakab, Susanne Wuest, Vlad Ivanov and Evelin Dobos
Released: Venice Film Festival 2018
László Nemes grabbed the attention of the world with his powerful film Son of Saul. The Hungarian film-maker stays within his homeland with Sunset. It is in competition for the Golden Lion at Venice. Will the high expectations remain after Venice? 1913, Budapest, in the heart of Europe. The young Irisz Leiter arrives in the Hungarian capital with high hopes to work as a milliner at the legendary hat store that belonged to her late parents. She is nonetheless sent away by the new owner, Oszkár Brill. While preparations are under way at the Leiter hat store, to host guests of uttermost importance, a man abruptly comes to Irisz, looking for a certain Kálmán Leiter. Refusing to leave the city, the young woman follows Kálmán’s tracks, her only link to a lost past. Her quest brings her through the dark streets of Budapest, where only the Leiter hat store shines, into the turmoil of a civilisation on the eve of its downfall.
László Nemes continues to impress with Sunset. The key focus is Irisz she is the centre of each frame. Nemes retains his portrait style of imagery. It can become very disorientating but it adds to the nuance of the mystery that unfolds for the audience. You aren’t necessarily sure what the narrative is trying to tell you but it what makes Sunset even more intriguing. You feel a connection with Irisz and you do want to see her succeed in her life. The Budapest backdrop and the imagery Nemes creates is purely breath-taking. Shot on 35 MM the film ages beautifully and you feel you are in this era in Budapest. It’s high octane set pieces can be very energetic. For a long runtime a bit of fire and violence is needed to keep the audience going. These scenes will mess with your eyes as Irisz moves so quickly through these situations.
Photography is stunning throughout the film, there are several clever uses of windows, focus, composition with many long takes. Juli Jakab shines as Irisz, she may use a singular expression throughout the film. But you can sense that she wants to change her life and get closure. It’s a very physical performance from her. The high intensity of Sunset changes in seconds and Jakab is always at the forefront. Unfortunately Sunset does lag within its pacing at some moments. The plot does become messy and the narrative suffers because of it. Nevertheless with its lavish costume design, beautiful scenery and a mysterious story. Sunset is a charming film with a lot to look forward too from László Nemes.