Sunshine

Istvan Szabo's epic tale of a well-to-do Hungarian Jewish family weaves three generations of familial melodrama and nearly 100 years of Hungary's troubled history into an allegorical examination of 20th century Jewish identity. That this handsome, three-hour extravaganza coheres at all is a small miracle; that it actually leaves you wanting more is a major...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Istvan Szabo's epic tale of a well-to-do Hungarian Jewish family weaves three generations of familial melodrama and nearly 100 years of Hungary's troubled history into an allegorical examination of 20th century Jewish identity. That this handsome, three-hour extravaganza

coheres at all is a small miracle; that it actually leaves you wanting more is a major one. Originally from a small provincial town, Sonnenschein ("Sunshine") family patriarch Emmanuel (David de Keyser) moves to Budapest in the mid-19th century and parlays a family recipe for tonic into a sizeable

fortune. His children, however, have no interest in the family business: Ignatz (Ralph Fiennes) wants to become a judge, but is advised that he should first change his name to something a little more "Hungarian" (read: less Jewish). He readily complies, as do his brother (James Frain) and adopted

cousin Valerie (Jennifer Ehle and, later, Ehle's mother Rosemary Harris), whom Ignatz later marries. The family name is now Sors, and it marks the first repression of the family's Jewishness. The second is more drastic: Ignatz's grown son Adam (Fiennes again) converts to Catholicism in order to

fence as a member of the prestigious — and restricted — Officer's Club and compete in the 1936 Olympic games. Tragically, Adam's conversion can't save him or the rest of the Sonnenschein family from near total destruction in the Nazi concentration camps. Telling the turbulent history of

Hungary as the story of one Hungarian family is a tall order, but Szabo (who scripted with renowned playwright Israel Horovitz) manages with considerable skill, and the film only gets better as the decades roll by. In a final, chilling performance, Fiennes represents Hungary during the Cold War:

As Adam's son, he's wracked with guilt, plagued by Stalin-era paranoia and rendered completely neurotic by the effects of anti-Semitism.

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  • Released: 2000
  • Rating: R
  • Review: Istvan Szabo's epic tale of a well-to-do Hungarian Jewish family weaves three generations of familial melodrama and nearly 100 years of Hungary's troubled history into an allegorical examination of 20th century Jewish identity. That this handsome, three-ho… (more)

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