Sunset (Napszállta)

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‘From László Nemes, the Oscar-winning director of Son of Saul comes this sublimely evocative recreation of 1913 Budapest, a city at the crux of world history. Írisz Leiter (Juli Jakab) arrives in the capital eager to become a milliner at her late parents’ legendary hat shop. But she is drawn into the mystery of what happened to her long-missing brother. Her search will lead her into a dazzling panorama of the dying gasps of the Austro-Hungarian empire. Perfectly pitched between dream and nightmare, with real lives caught in the web of history…’ (From the Curzon cinemas website, which includes a trailer.)

I went to see this last week.  The narrative is very strange, the atmosphere eerie and compelling, and it looks extraordinary, especially the lighting and the constant close-ups on the beautiful, strong and immobile face of Írisz, the lead character.  The closing remark of this Irish Times review is amusing – ‘A thing to be admired and puzzled over, featuring fantastic feats of millinery. Magic and hats, anyone?’ – and I certainly loved the hats, the dresses and the interiors (including William Morris wallpaper in the millinery salon…), but the overall impression was far more disturbing than that flippancy might suggest.

Not all the critics admired it.  Here’s a scathing response from the respected film magazine Sight and Sound. I agree that the ending was even more peculiar than the rest and not very convincing, but, unlike the Sight and Sound reviewer, I was swept away by the film’s strangeness and the world it created.  It will stay with me for a long time.

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