3.5 2
Director: István Szabó

Cast: István Szabó, Ralph Fiennes, Rosemary Harris, Rachel Weisz


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The fortunes of a family of Hungarian Jews are followed over the course of nearly 150 years in this epic historical drama, with leading man Ralph Fiennes playing three different roles. The story begins in the late 18th century, as Aaron and Josefa Sonnenschein (the name means "Sunshine" in German) die in an explosion while making an herb tonic for sale in their… See more details below


The fortunes of a family of Hungarian Jews are followed over the course of nearly 150 years in this epic historical drama, with leading man Ralph Fiennes playing three different roles. The story begins in the late 18th century, as Aaron and Josefa Sonnenschein (the name means "Sunshine" in German) die in an explosion while making an herb tonic for sale in their village. Their son Emmanuel (David de Keyser), the only survivor of the tragedy, travels to Budapest, carrying the recipe for the medicine with him. He's able to parlay the formula into a successful business, and Emmanuel and his wife Rose (Miriam Margolyes) raise two sons, Ignatz (Ralph Fiennes), who becomes a successful lawyer, and hot-tempered Gustave (James Frain). The Sonnenscheins also make room in their home for Valerie (Jennifer Ehle), but Emmanuel and Rose become furious when Valerie becomes romantically involved with Ignatz. Eventually, Valerie and Ignatz raise two children, Istvan (Mark Strong) and Adam (Ralph Fiennes), and the family changes its name to Sors in hopes of avoiding the anti-Semitism sweeping Europe. In time, Adam goes so far as to convert to Catholicism, and he marries another Catholic, Hannah (Molly Parker). He soon begins an affair with his brother's wife, Greta (Rachel Weisz), who is unable to persuade Adam to leave as the Nazis rise to power. Adam and Hannah have only one son, Ivan, who is fated to watch his father die in a concentration camp; as Ivan grows to adulthood (now played by Ralph Fiennes), he swears revenge on the forces of fascism and embraces Communism. Ivan throws in his lot with Communist leader Andor Knorr (William Hurt), but a liaison with the wife of a party official (Deborah Kara Unger) leads Ivan to tragic consequences and a jail term. In time, Valarie and Gustave are reunited at the family's estate as the only two members of the Sonnenschein clan who survive to witness the Hungarian Revolution in 1956. Hungarian director Istvan Szabo co-wrote Sunshine's original screenplay in collaboration with American playwright Israel Horovitz.

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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Ed Hulse
A tour de force for talented thespian Ralph Fiennes, this sweeping drama directed by Istvan Szabo (Mephisto) is undeniably melancholy, but it's also passionate and absorbing and all but unforgettable. Sunshine details the misfortunes of the Sonnenscheins, a once-prosperous clan of Hungarian Jews living in Budapest, whose members fall victim to several anti-Semitic regimes during the 20th century. First, respected teacher Ignatz runs afoul of Jew haters in the World War I era; later, his son dies in a Nazi death camp; still later, his grandson escapes persecution by becoming a Communist bureaucrat. Fiennes plays three generations of Sonnenscheins, and with Szabo's help makes each son a distinctive character. In a clever casting move, Ignatz's wife, the family matriarch, is played as a young woman by Jennifer Ehle (who in some shots resembles the young Meryl Streep) and as an old woman by Ehle's mother, Rosemary Harris. William Hurt is very effective as a disgraced Communist, and Rachel Weisz registers strongly as Ignatz's mistress. Sunshine has a mulitutde of powerful sequences, such as the particularly haunting scene in which Fiennes is frozen to death by his Nazi captors. Szabo's three-hour epic is not for the faint of heart, but it demonstrates human tenacity and resiliency in a most powerful manner.
All Movie Guide - Karl Williams
A heartbreaking portrait of three generations in a Hungarian-Jewish family, the multinational co-production Sunshine (1999) is the most successful narrative film from co-writer and director Istvan Szabo since his Oscar-nominated films of the 1980s. With Ralph Fiennes, Szabo at last finds a worthy collaborator to replace his memorable trilogy of films with Klaus-Maria Brandauer. Tackling three different roles that encompass a family's 20th century history, Fiennes is most remarkable in the middle of his triptych. As Adam Sors, Olympic fencing star and victim of fascist atrocity, Fiennes creates a stark portrait of indomitable pride that creates a satisfying bookend to his blazing role earlier in the decade as a Nazi in Schindler's List (1993). If at times his film strays too far afield, displaying the literary pretensions of so much European cinema in the latter part of the century, Szabo manages each time to snap back into a breathtakingly merciless confessional mode that never fails to shock and surprise. Sunshine is a remarkable self-examination of a family broken by fate and political philosophy but finding its way back to its roots. It's also an important film that charts a possible route of navigation out of a long-suffering Europe's turmoil and into an enlightened peace.
Chicago Sun-Times
...this is a movie of substance and thrilling historical sweep...Roger Ebert

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Product Details

Release Date:
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Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Ralph Fiennes Adam Sors,Ignatz Sonnenschein,Ivan Sors
Rosemary Harris Older Valerie Sors
Rachel Weisz Greta Sors
Jennifer Ehle Young Valerie Sonnenschein/Sors
Molly Parker Hannah Wippler Sors
Deborah Kara Unger Carola
James Frain Young Gustave Sonnenschein/Sors
John Neville Older Gustave Sors
Miriam Margolyes Rose Sonnenschein
David de Keyser Emmanuel Sonnenschein
Mark Strong Istvan Sors
William Hurt Andor Knorr
Bill Paterson Actor
Rüdiger Vogler Actor
Hanns Zischler Actor
Peter Andorai Anselmi
Jozsef Fonyo Prison Sergeant
Balazs Hantos Aaron Sonnenschein
Gábor Máté Rosner
Trevor Peacock Comrade General Kope
Mari Töröcsik Kato
Frederick Treves Emperor
Israel Horovitz Poet
Sandor Simo Doctor #2
Gabor Szabo Priest at Conversion
Lajos Kovács Military Police in Camp
Buddy Elias Mr. Brenner
Andras Fekete Footman
Zoltan Gera Man at Synagogue
Peter Halasz Wild Duck
Istvan Hirtling Dr. Lanyi
Frigyes Hollosy Mr. Ledniczky
Tamas Jordan Sommer
Gyorgy Kezdy Outraged Man
Vilmos Kun Rabbi Bettelheim
Attila Lote Count Forgach
Adam Rajhona Caretaker
Katja Studt Kato
Eva Igo Policewoman
Janos Kulka Molnar
Andras Stohl Red Guard
Joachim Bissemeyer Dr. Emil Vitak
Jacint Juhasz Mr. Hackl
Karoly Mecs Defense Secretary
Kathleen Gati Josefa Sonnenschein
Andrea Fullajtar Agota Hofer
Istvan Bubik Saray
Eszter Onodi Secretary at Officer's Club
Zoltan Seress Tersikovsky
Zoltán Bognár Doctor #1
Sándor Dánffy Policeman
Tamás Fodor Notary
István Fonyá Warehouse Guard
Ica Gurnik Woman in Hospital
Lászl Gálfi Rossa
Támas Juranics Commander of Lenin Boys
Tamás Keresztes 1st boy
Kotáany Bence 2nd boy
Zsolt László Lugosy
Ádám László Emmanuel at 12
János Nemes Adam at 17,Ivan at 16
Tamás Raj Rabbi at Wedding
Ila Schütz Mrs. Ledniczky
Lászl Szepesi Olympic Judge
István Szliágyi Hungler
Kati Sályom Landlady in Vienna
Péter Takács Stefamp Sarto
Bálint Trunká Istvan at 18
János Vészi Doctor #3
Maurice Jarre Conductor

Technical Credits
István Szabó Director,Screenwriter
Michel Arcand Editor
Zsuzsa Borvendeg Art Director
Deirdre Bowen Casting
Fred Brennan Sound/Sound Designer
Ralph Brosche Production Manager
Jonathan Debin Executive Producer
Christian Eder Set Decoration/Design
Keith Elliott Sound/Sound Designer
Judit Endrényi Makeup
Dominique Fortin Editor
Gabor Gajdos Asst. Director
Glen Gauthier Sound Mixer
Andras Hamori Producer
Israel Horovitz Screenwriter
Maurice Jarre Score Composer
Bonnie Kanner Executive Producer
Peter Kelly Sound/Sound Designer
Rainer Kolmel Executive Producer
Lajos Koltai Cinematographer
Attila Kovacs Set Decoration/Design
Attila Köves Set Decoration/Design
Daniel Krausz Co-producer
Robert Lantos Producer
Brent MacLeod Camera Operator
Miklós Molnár Set Decoration/Design
Pedro Moreno Costumes/Costume Designer
Lajos Ovari Co-producer,Production Manager
Daniel Pellerin Sound/Sound Designer
Josef Riehs Set Decoration/Design
György Sánta Production Manager
Gyorgy Szakacs Costumes/Costume Designer
Jane Tattersall Sound/Sound Designer
Stephanie Wagner Production Manager
Jeremy Woodhead Makeup
Mike Woroniuk Camera Operator
Stefan Würzl Set Decoration/Design
Mark Zsifkovitz Camera Operator

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