Sunshine (2000) (R) No Rating

Review Date: June 9th, 2000

A candidate for most deceptively titled film of the year, this bleak,

morose and otherwise non-sunshiney saga of a Jewish family’s tragic

attempts to assimilate into Hungarian society is notable mostly for its

ineffective use of the usually superb Ralph Fiennes in not one but three

different roles.


In the days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Ignatz Sonnenschein (Fiennes

with beard) deals with anti-Semitism and a rocky marriage to his

cousin/adopted sister (Jennifer

Ehle). In World War II-era Hungary, Ignatz’ son Adam (Fiennes with

mustache) deals with anti-Semitism and romantic overtures from his

brother’s hottie wife (Rachel Weisz). In Communist postwar Hungary,

Adam’s son Ivan (Fiennes clean-shaven) deals with anti-Semitism and an

affair with a married comrade (Deborah Kara Unger). Get it? Things never

really change!


Fiennes can be a ferocious presence onscreen, as he demonstrates in

isolated moments such as an electrifying bit when the usually

unemotional Ignatz suddenly explodes in anger at Harris’ character. For

the most part, however, the melodramatic dialogue ("Give me the salt,

damn you!") is more than even he or expert supporting players such as

Miriam Margolyes ("Romeo + Juliet") and James Frain ("Hilary and

Jackie") can sell. Oh, and why are the Hollywood imports Unger and

William Hurt doing British accents?


Hungarian director Istvan Szabo’s soap opera-ish treatment of the

material would be hard enough to take in a standard-length feature, but

this sucker clocks in at a butt-punishing three hours. With its

sputtering storyline and routine visual approach, the film certainly

provides no competition to Vittorio De Sica’s similarly themed 1971

masterpiece "The Garden of the Finzi-Continis." As Fiennes vehicles go,

this one is closer to the laughably bad "The Avengers" than "Schindler’s


Bottom Line

Three strikes … and Fiennes and company are out of there!