Sunset ★★★★½

TIFF film #8

We don't know how it ends for us. Our story will be told years from now by a generation we will never know. They will determine what we did and why. And the stories will change, depending on who and why they tell it. We don't know how it ends. We don't even know where it begins.

László Nemes' camera follows Irisz Leiter as she arrives in Budapest to apply for a job at her family's former hat shop. She discovers things about the family she never knew and the import of her family name. In her quest to get details she navigates the world in which she lives, with its revolutionaries and criminals and hierarchies and political activism. It is her agency and determination and participation that guide us through the streets of Budapest in 1913. If she is confused, so are we. If she can't tell who is telling the truth, neither can we. If she doesn't know where the story begins, neither do we.

When the film ends, we might be able to tell a story about what Irisz was living. We have two or three generations worth of stories about that time, two or three generations that decided what happened. But the genius of László's storytelling device here is that he allows us to go back in time and see what life was like before the historians choose the story for us. And that is what makes Sunset such a brilliant film.

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