Take the time machine to review Tiantan Award Section. Today’s Tiantan Award Time Machine will bring you back to Budapest on the eve of the World War I in the 20th century, following a girl named Írisz to wander through the old city to find the truth. This is Sunset, directed by László Nemes, who won the Best Director Award at the 9th Beijing International Film Festival. Today, the director will share with us the inspiration and theme of the film.
Sunset is the second feature film of this Hungarian director. After winning the Grand Prix of Festival de Cannes and Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film for his maiden work, Son of Saul, he quickly turned to Sunset. The inspiration for the film came from his long-standing interest in Europe and European history in the 20th century.
In the summer of 1913, the last peace days before the World War I, an orphan girl named Írisz returns to Budapest after leaving her hometown for many years, where there is a female hat design workshop left by her parents. She arrives at the workshop and learns that she has an older brother she has never met. Therefore Írisz starts to look for her brother across the city. During this process, she knows more about this labyrinthine city.
Sunset, as a unique work about history, inherits the aesthetic style from Son of Saul. It adopts shallow focus photography across almost the whole film, inviting audience to follow the perspective of the heroine all the way back to the historical scene of Europe before it fell into darkness and wander through the maze together, but fail to find the truth. Like Son of Saul, it does not intend to tell a complete story, but construct a unique film experience and emotional experience.
As for the basic conflicts and main issues involved in the film, it can almost be regarded as the predecessor of Son of Saul. What caused the collapse and decline of European civilization? How has Europe evolved from the state of peace in Sunset to the concentration camps and massacres in Son of Saul? The director only provides the audience with an experience to make them nervous instead of a clear answer to these questions.
This film tells about the fate of a girl, which can’t be controlled by herself due to the tumultuous era. She does make a choice, but also has no other choice. The director said in the interview, “In Sunset, there has always been a question about how to choose one's own destiny in a particular society. I think today's society is also unconsciously in a crossroad of a certain civilization." For today’s audience, the history of Europe in the 20th century is far away, but we may also stand in a crossroad, with the same vacillation and confusion.