Projections - Movie Reviews

Sunshine Sunshine

After playing a bitter novelist who tries to recapture a glorious passion in Paris during WWII, Ralph Fiennes' inner turmoil lasts through three generations in the lengthy, yet absorbing Sunshine, a historic drama that adroitly, if extensively, reflects off of politics, morality, and one's identity.

Helmer and co writer Istvan Szabo casts Fiennes in three roles covering the volatile years of the Austro Hungarian empire, Nazism, and Communism.  Playwright Israel Horowitz helped Szabo script this rollicking epic drama that focuses on the Sonnenschein family, known as Sunshine, from a tonic water that brought them great fortune.  But a strange explosion at their distillery spreads Sunshine into a complex identity crisis that tears through a struggling family during two world wars and an assimilated name change.

Fiennes brings zealous panache to a man consumed by the avarice for power who is willing to compromise his Semitic heritage.  Some may find Fiennes' presence in this multi generational feature to be a little overbearing.  Yet, he embodies the somberness and ambition that chronicles the rise and fall of a family that Fiennes affects in his divisive portrayal of three compulsive men.

First, as eldest son Ignatz, Fiennes elicits a handsome quality that sees him challenged by anti Semitism as he rises through Austrian politics into a preeminent judge, changing his name to the more Slavic Sors.  Turbulence ensues with younger brother Gustave (James Frain), as the sibling rebel takes issue with the judge's secular ascent.  And Ignatz engages in an illicit relationship with Jennifer Ehle's Valerie, a beguiling woman who is his self assured first cousin.

The next branch of the Sonnenschein tree has son Adam Sors, a boasting fencing star involved with his brother's wife (Rachel Weisz) while betrothed to Hanna (Molly Parker).  In order to obtain an Olympic title, his religion is refuted, but that is no escape from the Holocaust tragedy.

Fiennes' Ivan is an almost mute traumatized tormented man, who becomes an officer under Stalin's rule and is passionately anti Fascist, with the only surviving family member being grandma Valerie, a radiant Rosemary Harris, Erle's real life mother.  But, alas, communism may not be any less reprehensible than what Adam felt, when Ivan gets involved with Carola, a Soviet police officer played by a duplicitous Deborah Kara Unger, the wife of one of the Communist Party's elite.

Some fine back up work includes William Hurt's Andor Knorr, Ivan's mentor and Auschwitz survivor who steers him back toward working on Hungary's liberation.  John Neville is the older Gustave, now a Communist back from exile in France, and offers posh intensity in reunion with his remaining clan.


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