Filmmaker László Nemes has some big shoes to fill: his own. The Hungarian director memorably broke out in 2015 with his emotional and ambitious Holocaust drama “Son of Saul,” which debuted at Cannes, went on to win the FIPRESCI Prize and the Grand Prix, was picked up by Sony Pictures Classics, and eventually won the 2016 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. This year, Nemes will compete with his own legacy, thanks to his second feature film, “Sunset,” which Hungary has submitted as its entry for the 2019 Oscars.
For his second film, Nemes has returned to somewhat familiar territory, tackling another story about fractured families torn apart by the threat of war. Set in Budapest in 1913, “Sunset” chronicles a continent on the verge of World War I, centered around the experience of orphan Irisz Leiter (Juli Jakab), who travels to the Hungarian capital with a double-pronged personal mission: to get a job at the beloved millinery Leiter and to reclaim her family’s legacy. Years earlier, Irisz’s parents owned the lauded Leiter hat shop, and she’s eager to return to it, but she’s swiftly turned away by its current owner.
He’s not the only person in Budapest who treats the bewildered Irisz coldly, as she soon discovers that she might have a brother she never knew about, one who has done terrible things to the city’s inhabitants and could further derail her already fragile existence. Or is there something more nefarious lurking than just long-buried family secrets?
In his Venice review, IndieWire’s Michael Nordine wrote of the film, “With the one-two punch of ‘Saul’ and now this, one would be hard-pressed to name a better director of period pieces than Nemes — not the flashy, costume-driven sort but the kind of immersive experiences that make you feel as though you’ve caught an actual glimpse of the time and place as it actually existed, untouched by time. That these are dark, violent eras only makes the experience more intoxicating: ‘Sunset’ invites you to revel in the last moments of Budapest’s pre-war grandeur even as you mourn what will soon befall it.”
The film previously screened at this year’s Venice Film Festival and Toronto International Film Festival. Sony Pictures Classics will release “Sunset” in 2019.
Check out IndieWire’s exclusive first trailer below.