Sunset / Napszállta (Hungary. France, 2018)

Sunday July 14th at 2.30 p.m.

This is the new film from director László Nemes. His previous film was Son of Saul / Saul fia (Hungary, 2015). This new film also enjoys the fine production work of many of the same team from the earlier film: music László Melis, cinematography Mátyás Erdély, Film Editing Matthieu Taponier and production design by László Rajk. And once again the film is screening at the Picture House in its original format of 35mm.

Son of Saul was a very subjective style narrative and the new film takes a similar approach. But is seems that there are even more ambiguities in the plotting this time. The film opens in Budapest in 1913 when a young woman comes to the city and encounters mysterious and threatening situations. The pre-World War I Austro-Hungarian empire offers a rich palette for such a story; witness the earlier Sunshine (1999) directed by István Szabó.

The film runs for 142 minutes in colour, widescreen with Hungarian and German dialogue with English subtitles. It promises to be less downbeat than the earlier film but likely will need close attention as the story unfolds. The effort should be repaid by the visual pleasure in the screening. The 35mm cinematography relies on random  silver halide grains in the stock that reflect the light and give excellent contrast. Digital copies of 35mm film transfer this to uniform pixels and only rarely reproduce the particular characteristics of film stock. So, the illustrative still at the top of this post does not really give a sense of what we should enjoy viewing.

One thought on “Sunset / Napszállta (Hungary. France, 2018)

  1. Nemes’ mystery story had me swooning at the brilliant camerawork, the precision focus, the precision sound design, the evocation of 1910 Budapest, the glorious 35 mm glow of the sunlight. For a while. Then I got used to that and I started to get irritated with the story.
    It starts by saying “Let’s lift the veil” or some such words, and in every scene the veil over what really happened and what’s really going on lifts a tiny tiny bit further, usually only to reveal some further mystery. Everyone’s always asking questions, everyone answers in riddles or enigmas or (most often) not at all.
    If you like solving mysteries, you might love this. We identify so strongly with the protagonist that it’s like being in a computer role-playing game (albeit one with more gorgeous colours than have ever been seen on a monitor). Technically, it’s amazing. Me, I rapidly stopped caring what the answer was. Glad when it was over.


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