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Sunset

László Nemes

Using exquisite 35mm and 65mm film, Hungarian director László Nemes recreates the twilight of an era in all its sensual detail, with an attention to high fashion and the art of millinery that rivals 2017's Phantom Thread. The intensity of Sunset is unmistakable, confirming Nemes' extraordinary talent in this follow-up to his critically acclaimed 2015 feature debut, Son of Saul.

"A challenging but rewarding film, and highly recommended."

In the Austro-Hungarian Empire, shortly before the First World War, the enigmatic Írisz Leiter (Juli Jakab) causes a stir when she enters an elegant Budapest department store specialising in women's hats. The sense of disquiet that fills the store soon pervades the entire film as we learn the reason for Írisz's visit: the shop once belonged to her parents, and her return reveals a past full of troubling family secrets. Orphaned in mysterious circumstances at the age of two, she’s trying to connect with her legacy but the new proprietor Oszkár Brill (Vlad Ivanov) sends her away, clearly threatened by her presence. Stepping out of the boutique’s rarefied atmosphere into the cacophonous streets of 1913 Budapest thrusts Írisz into the jarring hubbub of modernity and danger. At a boarding house she’s attacked by Gaspar (Levente Molnár), an unstable coachman muttering something about the Leiter son; Írisz knows nothing about a brother, so tries to find some answers. The information she gathers is fragmentary and troubling, and the journey she embarks on to connect with him is full of deceit, decadence and degradation.

Nemes’ ability to create atmosphere and environment is second to none – Sunset reveals more in its camera movements than it does in its plot and is a marvel of cinematic sound and texture. For all its beauty, this is a complex drama that uncompromisingly refuses to signpost or offer easy explanations. This is a challenging but rewarding film, and highly recommended.