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on 8 May 2006
This movie is simply brilliant!

It tells the story of a Hungarian Jewish family through 3 generations. We get to see the history of the 20th century, the 2nd world war, how it aaffected Hungary through a family's life. And though everything changes around the Sonnenschein (later Sors) family: regimes, friends, people they can trust, etc... there is still a constancy: the bloodline, the relations, the family bond, the love.

It is such a moving an overwhelming movie, simply brilliant.

The cast is excellent! From Jennifer Ehle to Rachel Weisz, everybody is perfect! And for Ralph Fiennes who plays the 3 main characters (the grandfather, the father and the son), I can't find the words. He plays them so masterfully, that despite the physical ressemblance, you can see that they are 3 totally different persons.

Yes, of course it is dark because it deals with deportation, Jewish camps, but it is that kind of film that after seeing it, you will be thinking about it for days. I have first seen it when I was 14, and ever since it has been one of my favorite movies, not only because the acting is excellent, or the photography breathtaking, but because it gives a whole round story with such emotional depth and moral lessons that the catharsis is guaranteed.

A wonderful movie, you absolutely have to check out if you haven't seen it yet!
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 4 January 2014
Would there were more films made with the sweep and richness of Sunshine - a film I happened to see first in Budapest when I was living and working there.
It sometimes reminded me of David Lean at his best (which wasn`t often after his first few films) but a lot subtler, with a clutch of marvellous performances that lift this above the usual lengthy family saga.
It is set over decades in a troubled Hungary, with the Sonnensheins, a Jewish family who are heirs to the money made from a famed tonic named Sunshine, and who change their name to Sors (pron. Shorsh) for pragmatic reasons.
Ralph Fiennes is quite brilliant as narrator and three generations of the family, giving three subtly differing portrayals of three progressively tortured men. What a fine actor he is. His later scenes with William Hurt are odd in that these are two actors with a similar style, both a little distant, slightly bland of face, both with a rather `serious` image.
The wonderful Rosemary Harris and her daughter Jennifer Ehle, who is equally good,
play the same character at different times. Rachel Weisz and Molly Parker are effective as two younger women who are both in love with Fiennes, Miriam Margolyes (someone who can do little wrong in my book) is note perfect in earlier scenes as the matriarch of the family, with the too often underused David De Keyser superb as her husband.
Deborah Kara Unger makes her mark in later scenes as one of Fiennes` lovers. John Neville and James Frain also have telling roles in this long and absorbing story.
Each character is well cast, and given room to establish themselves by director Istvan Szabo.
It is Fiennes who anchors the film in the seriousness its subject matter deserves, though Szabo never allows things to get either too solemn or too elephantine (which was Lean`s disastrous mistake again and again in bloated films such as Zhivago and Ryan`s Daughter).
Fiennes had already played a Hungarian in The English Patient, and one wonders if Szabo had that in mind when casting him. No matter, he was right to choose an actor who is arguably the most hermetic and introspective among contemporary British actors, though capable of an almost terrifying forcefulness when necessary.
This is not a perfect film, but it is one that repays repeated viewings, if only for the richness of the lives it portrays and the tale it tells. Unlike another reviewer, I applaud the decision to show the women as having healthy sexual needs and appetites, rather than assuming they would be less demanding, less human in their desires. Szabo directs women well, and obviously likes them. That`s rare enough in itself.
The fairly explicit sex is done realistically and without either prurience or any lingering self-indulgence. This is a film with life and love in its DNA, and fire in its belly!

Nine out of ten. A wonderful film of great power and resonance.
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on 22 February 2001
Sunshine is a very rare movie in this day and age. Most films passing themselves off as epic are little more than overblown regular movies with a heap of gloss (Gladiator for example),but Sunshine is the real deal,a genuine sprawling epic which follows a Hungarian Jewish family through four generations.
Ralph Fiennes is the strong thread that binds the different periods together,playing the narrator,his father and his Grandfather in each segment of the film. Fiennes puts in a superbly crafted performance throughout the film and he convinces as different men from different generations but all of the same blood. Few actors can hold their own in vast roles such as this,particularly when it means holding the film together.
As an insight into the trauma that many europeans faced (especially Jewish europeans)as their countries are pushed and pulled betwwen fascist and communist regimes the film is a wonderful historical aid,and if you have any interest in learning of the astounding history of the Hungarian people (which mirrors much of central europe)then this film will educate you while keeping you thoroughly caught up in the story.
From prosperity to persecution the film remains true to life,exploring all emotions,from success to despair,love and failure,anger and frustration. The scenes from the concentration camps are as harrowing and honest as any ever likely to be committed to film.
Technically speaking the film cannot be faulted,the cinemtography is impeccable and the direction controlled and unflinching,even if the director risks his characters losing sympathy,this is a refreshingly honest and unashamedly beautiful film to look at.
A great disc to show off your DVD player as the production values are high,with some wonderful lighting,mixtures of environments (snow,architecture,the wonderful Hungarian landscape) and a rich,well produced soundtrack. This is a fantastic,genuine epic to addd to your collection.
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on 30 December 2000
An extremely interesting film, covering almost a century of a Hungarian Jewish family's life, picking out the most typical moments of the country's and the region's history. Beautiful costumes and stages, excellent acting, fantastic screenplay and filming.
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on 21 September 2002
Sunshine is the warmest cinema exeperience for me in the last decade, with fantastic taste in chosing expressiv locations, presenting wonderful actors - I cannot overemphasize my enthusiasm for this movie. The best cinematographers keep this DVD as a secret Bible in their safes at home. Dont`t hesistate to watch it.
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on 7 September 2010
Sunshine is derived from Sonnenschein, the original name of a prosperous Jewish family living in Hungary and the film tells the story of the lives of several generations of the family over a period of about sixty years covering events from just before the turn of the century in 1900, the First World War which saw the destruction of the Austria-Hungary empire, the inter-war years which witnessed the rise of Fascism, the second world war and the Holocaust that was associated with it, the oppression of the Stalinist years following the war, the brief glimpse of freedom and democracy in the Hungarian revolution and its extinction by the tanks of the Soviet Army.

The family is intensely loyal and patriotic, they fight for their country in both world wars and one of them becomes an Olympic fencing champion who represents Hungary and yet they suffer savage persecution at the hands of their fellow Hungarians because they are Jewish. The family struggle to find their place in society, often successfully but then times change and they have to cope with the tumultuous political, social and economic changes that take place in their country.

The film brilliantly reconstructs the changing conditions in Hungary during different parts of the century and the performance of Ralph Fiennes at the centre of the film is truly remarkable. It is an absorbing story of how people have power and influence one minute and then get swept away by events over which they have no control. It also shows that the power individuals possess over their fellow citizens can be lost so easily, how patriotism can be easily subverted by politicians and that family loyalty is far more reliable and more enduring than loyalty towards any political system or country.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 2 October 2012
Not to be confused with Danny Boyle's later, only foray into sci-fi, this 'Sunshine' is quite a rare movie; I've not been aware of it ever being on TV.

Sunshine, though, features a very capable Ralph Fiennes, portraying three different men, in three different generations of the same Jewish family throughout the turmoils and futility of a warring Europe. This sounds a grand plan and mostly works, it being quite clear when a new era has been started, with Fiennes narrating a cross-over sort of stitching of stories, aided by newsreel to help us place it, time-wise.

Probably Hungary's most successful director, István Szabó has used English here, whereas two of his previous films that follow many of the themes explored here that I have seen and own, are in Hungarian: the Oscar winning (Foreign Language) Mephisto and later Colonel Redl. These starred the Austrian actor Klaus Maria Brandauer in brilliant and memorable performances.

However, especially when comparing to the earlier Brandauer films, this structure is its slight undoing. However hard Fiennes tries - and he is forced into some quite nasty, humiliating scenes, he is never on the levels attained by Brandauer. This time-frame structure also makes the three hour run-time slacken, the film lacks the urgency and tightness of the Hungarian films and whilst in English, with some familiar faces, it lacks the authenticity, too. However, at least having all the cast speaking the same 'region-free' English dialogue means it is not jarred by a sudden American one, which would spoil it, a bit.

However, the story remains an interesting one and the mood and feel never less than authentically and superbly realised, whilst handsome use of locations such as Vienna, Paris, Berlin and Budapest make for a visual feast. I've now just seen the film for the third time.

If you're expecting a nice, twee and gentle period drama, leave this one well alone - Szabó has always gone for realism - often graphically. Expect torture, nudity and very strong language - it all fits in and is never gratutous but this does mean it's not one for Sunday afternoon with grandma and the kids.

I would also definitely recommend the two Hungarian Szabó's that I mention - Mephisto is easier to buy and is critically very admired. Colonel Redl I had to buy as a Korean import but that is a good transfer at a good price, if you can find an outlet.
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on 3 April 2012
A wonderful saga following one family over a hundred years of Hungarian history from late 19th century, with the son of each generation played excellently by Ralph Fiennes. In particular the (constant) character of Valerie (Jennifer Ehle and later Rosemary Harris)is mesmerising - adorable,lively and intelligent in youth and equally so in the wisdom of old age (and both actresses played it magnificently). The story reflects the various brutal and violent episodes in the country's history - through WW1, WW2 and the communist repression under Stalin, and throughout shows the loves and tribulations of each character in the family.
You know when a film has reached you when you smile as a lost character comes home. And if you are still thinking about it three days later, it has touched you indeed. This film has that stature and i would recommend it.
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on 23 September 2009
I was interested in the subject matter because one of my friends is related to Attila Petshaur on whose family the film is based. I was not disappointed based on what he had told me of what actually happened. It was directed well.
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on 16 April 2001
I have wanted to see this film for a very long time, it was not available at my local cinema so I waited for it to come out on DVD which I have now purchased. I have just watched it and found it absolutely excellent, the acting was first rate and the scenery and photography brilliant, it really gave an insight into what it must have been like for Jews all those years ago. Ralph Fiennes is my favourite actor and I must say he did not disappoint in this film. Brilliant - first class.
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