Sunset uses sunny tones to create a visually stunning portrayal of 1913 Budapest. Credit to the cinematographer for making the only natural thing about László Nemes’s latest flick.
The film opens with Írisz (Juli Jakab) visiting a hat shop. Turns out, she is not just a customer, but daughter of the original owners, who perished in a fire when she was two years old. She discovers the business has new ownership in Oszkár Brill (Vlad Ivanov), but that does not deter her from seeking employment. After an almost comedic fight scene, Írisz learns she has a brother who may be a killer. With no concern for danger, she sets out to find her mysterious sibling.
At first, the protagonist’s naivety is endearing, though it soon becomes annoying, as the viewer questions her motives as much as the other characters do. This is the same as the camera work. First, it is refreshing, new, but it quickly becomes old. Írisz is always in the scene, even when she isn’t. It is obvious Nemes is trying to recreate the success of the movie’s predecessor, Son of Saul, shot in the same style. But while the restricted frame added to the narrative of Son of Saul, showing the suffocation felt in Nazi death camps, Sunset’s camera work is just suffocating, with nothing added. The plot is restricted by what Írisz knows, and that isn’t a lot. Everything not within her view is blurred. There is a chance for making full use of Mátyás Erdély’s 35mm camera, but the opportunity is missed. It is also hard for other characters to be developed when they are hardly shown. Instead, Jakab guides us with just her eyes, but mostly her neck. Shots of the back of her neck must contribute to 50% of the extremely long running time. Still, she does stoic and cold well, the only emotions Írisz seems to feel.
The story is just as a simple. The film feels like a succession of different, sometimes unrelated, shots. Metaphors do run deep in them, though, starting at the very first scene, with the veil being lifted from Írisz’s face, as the truth comes out. Hats are a motif throughout, always concealing something beneath their grandeur. This is much like Budapest in the run up to World War One, with the cause being constantly questioned. There should have been more beneath this film but, overall, Sunset is a flick as vague and forgettable as its name.
Sunset is released in select cinemas on 31st May 2019.
Watch the trailer for Sunset here: