Hungarian film director Nemes Laszlo has been called unconventional. I reviewed his award-winning “ Son Of Saul” ( Nov. 14th, 2015 ) where he enlightened us by forcing viewers to live horrific pieces of the Holocaust. I am familiar with his use of fire and fireworks, his focus on one main character, and his hellish view of humankind, but none of this prepared me for “Sunset”.
I was befuddled throughout. At one point I thought I may have been seeing two vampire tribes vying for power. The fall of an empire never crossed my mind. A corrupt monarchy came later, but by then I was just sidetracked by the perplexing gender freedom of a twentyish, orphan-raised female protagonist allowed to walk anywhere in 1913 Bucharest. And this is mostly what she does~ walk, though there is the occasional carriage, tram and train, and rowboat.
The camera rarely leaves Irisz Leiter’s face. Hungarian actress Juli Jakab plays Irisz, and she resembles the American actress Kristen Stewart with her ferret-like directness. She is looking to meet a brother she did not know she had. She is warned that he is a monster, but she is not to be deterred.
Irisz has come to to Bucharest initially to establish herself as a milliner in the fashion house that her parents once owned , Leiter House. A conflagration of some type demolished their family. Whether the parents died or were eventually employed in a carnival-like freak show is unclear, like much of the film. Though Irisz lifts the black netted veil of her wide brimmed hat, we never really see her clearly. Like the Vaseline smeared over the camera lens, we get only the impression of a girl seeking the truth and her place in the world.
What is clear is how women are abused for the sexual pleasure of depraved royals. If this is an allegory about the Austrian-Hungary break-up and the Dual Monarchy, it is beyond me to explain in light of this film. Foot fetishes and imperial weirdness take on a rapine violence and then we see our Irisz in the trenches of WWI. If anyone can explain this film, I would like to hear from you.