Sunset is a mystery-drama with a greater focus on the drama and character conflicts that come with its mysteries rather than shocking the audience with twists and turns. It’s the latest film from Hungarian filmmaker László Nemes, best known for his previous film Son of Saul which took in the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2016. Commanding a haunting atmosphere and with a breathtaking performance from Juli Jakab; Sunset makes for a follow-up feature teeming with intrigue.
Set in Budapest 1913, Sunset follows Írisz Leiter (Juli Jakab) as she returns to her hometown for the first time since the fiery death of her parents when she was two. She hopes to work at the hat store founded by her parents, now rebuilt since the fire that took them, yet still baring the Leiter name. She is turned away at first but a revelation that she may have a long-lost brother causes her to stay longer in desperate need of answers. Despite all the intrigue tied with this story, there are no specific big reveal moments throughout the film that exist to shock the audience or throw the audience in a new direction. Instead, the film moves along at a very deliberate pace slowly peeling back the layers of the narrative as it goes along, insisting you give it your fullest attention.
The look of Sunset is gorgeous and plays a big part in conveying the mood of the film. The colours of each shot blend in with one another like a painting and this grainy look is further brought out by the work of cinematographer Mátyás Erdély, having shot this on 35mm. This beauty is all a foil to the darker side of the film which is brought out by various long-take sequences where the camera closely follows Írisz with only the whispers of passing conversations echoing in the background, highlighting an ever-present feeling of claustrophobia. It puts you in Írisz’s shoes and makes you feel the tension she feels as she walks among the town or finds herself in the middle of a conflict.
Sunset is well worth seeing if you’re into stories with a slow-burn. It by no means makes for an easy watch when you want a period piece to find escapism within. It relies heavily on a delayed gratification with its narrative which can make it frustrating at times but when it all comes together; it really is something to take in.
Promotional image obtained from: Brisbane International Film Festival (2019), Sunset.
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