Saturday, June 13, 2009


DE/AT/CA/HU (c) 1999 [many production companies]. P: Andras Hamori, Robert Lantos. D: István Szabó. SC: István Szabó, Israel Horovitz. DP: Lajos Koltai - colour and black & white (archival footage) - 1,85:1. M: Maurice Jarre. Egmont overture by Beethoven. PD: Attila Kovács. AD: Zsuzsanna Borvendég. COST: Györgyi Szakács. ED: Michal Arcand. CAST: Ralph Fiennes (Ignatz Sonnenschein / Adam Sors / Ivan Sors), Jennifer Ehle (Valerie Sonnenschein as a young woman) Rosemary Harris (Valerie Sors as a grown-up woman), Rachel Weisz (Greta), Deborah Kara Unger (Maj. Carole Kovacs), John Neville (Gustave Sors as an old man), Miriam Margolyes (Rose Sonnenschein), Rüdiger Vogler (Gen. Jakofalvy), Hanns Zischler (Baron Margitta), Mari Töröcsik (Older Kato), William Hurt (Andor Knorr). 181 min. A Filmunio print, original in English, viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 12 June 2009. - Print with beautiful colour, pleasant photochemical look, wear and tear in changeovers. - One of the essential films by István Szabó, one of the essential Jewish films of all time, an essential film of reckoning with the Eastern European past, celebrating the 20th anniversary of the fall of the wall. - It is the story of a hundred years in three generations of the Sonnenschein / Sors family. It starts from the shtetl, the family patriarch the inventor of a herbal liquor. Ignatz becomes a judge, and has to change his name. His son Adam becomes an Olympic fencer, and has to convert to Catholicism. That does not prevent him from becoming a victim of the Holocaust. His son Ivan becomes a police officer in Socialist Hungary, to bring the fascists to justice. But witnessing the crimes of Stalinism and the bloody repression of the people's uprising of 1956 he turns his back to the new system. - A unique attempt to cover honestly the various totalitarian administrations in Hungary. - As a Jewish film, it is about the tragedy of forced assimilation and persecution. The Holocaust episode belongs to the most harrowing in the history of the cinema. - Among the recurrent motifs: the lost recipe notebook, the grandfather's watch, the splinters. - Towards the end of the film certain lessons first mentioned in the start get new resonance. "We are afraid to see clearly and to be seen clearly". "If you struggle for acceptance, you'll always be unhappy". "You are not in prison, they are in prison". "One day I'll wipe that smile off your face". "I'm not anybody's wife, I'm myself". - The finest sequence: the 1956 uprising edited to the rhythm of Beethoven's Egmont overture. - There are gorgeous female roles in the film, and especially the scenes with the bright Jennifer Ehle radiate with intelligence, courage, sensuality and frank sexuality. - Rachel Weisz would have deserved more screen time, but of course the film is long as it is. Rosemary Harris is excellent as the grown-up Valerie. - Although Ralph Fiennes in his triple role portrays the three main characters, finally, Valerie is the soul and heart of the film, the only one who never loses her inner compass. - A film I decided I want to see again even while still watching it.

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