15th October 2018 8.00pm at Vue West End
15th October 2018 8.45pm at Curzon Soho
16th October 2018 11.45am at Vue West End
Before the outbreak of World War One in Budapest, a fearless young woman shows the steely determination worthy of a soldier. Sound like an exciting premise? Well, don’t get your hopes up. Unfortunately, even stunning cinematography and a fierce feminist message can’t save Sunset, the latest bleak and frankly baffling feature from László Nemes, from being a two-and-a-half-hour endurance test.
When Írisz Leiter turns up at the milliners once owned by her parents, she discovers a dark secret in the family. Refusing to let it lie, she digs deeper and slowly (oh-so-slowly) begins to uncover an even greater corruption at large. In the lead role, newcomer Juli Jakab makes an admirable attempt at pulling us into the narrative with impressively expressive eyes. However, countless scenes seem to be comprised of passive, voyeuristic gazes and smileless stares. We long for some dialogue, something to punctuate the excruciating silence.
Of course, this falls ultimately down to an undisciplined and consequently underdeveloped screenplay. The protagonist is a fearless female figure – there’s no doubt about that. But there is also no doubt that her inability to listen or reply to anybody’s instructions gets wearing – very quickly. It’s not long before we start to sympathise with the shop assistants and their repeated chimes of “where have you been?” and “I told you to stay put”. It is admirable that Írisz Leiter will not sit down until she seeks the truth, but as shots follow her on her winding path outside, inside, outside again and needlessly into danger, her motivations seem to border on masochistic.
Some elements of the film shine through. There is interesting symbolism to be found in the image of hats and the shade that they cast on the women who wear them. Brims obscure all manner of dark deeds whilst at the same time decorating ladies as objects and centrepieces. This is extended into beautiful camerawork, which plays with light. Half-illuminated faces glow and then sink back into the shadows. Enlightenment is elusive and Írisz is repeatedly kept in the dark. Infuriatingly, though, so are we – for 142 minutes. Nobody answers any question with a straight answer until we begin to wonder if there will be any reward for our attention. Even in the dramatic final sequence, comprehension waves at us from a distance and keeps on walking.
If Sunset aims to be a brilliantly clever cinematic experiment that immerses us in the frustration of our female protagonist, to that end it succeeds. But if it seeks to captivate and crucially to justify it’s length, it does not.
Sunset does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews and interviews from our London Film Festival 2018 coverage here.
For further information about the festival visit the official BFI website here.
Watch the trailer for Sunset here: