Reviewer: Charity Bishop
When I was younger, I had a close friend that was Hungarian-Jewish, so when
I learned Sunshine
was about a family of Jews beginning with the
Victorian era and spanning into more modern times, I was interested enough
to rent the movie. What I found was a film that is completely and utterly
absorbed in immorality. It has flickers of intelligence and the acting is
stellar, but I was completely disgusted by the adultery and lewd sex scenes.
A Taste of Sunshine. That's the name of the tonic that Emmanuel Sonnenschein
(David de Keyser) has inherited in the little black notebook, the only thing not
destroyed in the horrific explosion that took his father's life in the small
Hungarian town. It eases most ailments and is highly popular, so much so that it
earns Emmanuel both respect and wealth. After the death of his brother and
sister in law, Emmanuel adopts their orphaned daughter, bringing her up along
with his two sons. None of them have an interest in taking over the family
business when they reach adulthood. Ignatz (Ralph Fiennes) is studying to become
a circuit judge. Gustav (James Frain) is studying medicine, and their cousin
Valarie (Jennifer Ehle) just wants to be Ignatz's wife. They're not legally
brother and sister, but Ignatz's parents heartily disapprove of the match.
When Valarie becomes pregnant, they have no choice but to accept the marriage.
Ignatz has been confronted with his Jewish heritage. The communist government is
in need of a new panel of judges, but refuse to give it to anyone who has a
Jewish last name. All three of them change their last name to Sors. The story
follows his involvement in the uprising, success on the circuit, and the fate of
his son, Adam (Ralph Fiennes), who becomes Hungary's Olympic medalist for in
fencing underneath the oppression of the Third Reigh. Pressured by her flattered
attentions, he pursues the wife of his brother (Rachael Weiz). When the Jews are
ostracized and persecution begins, Adam's grandmother and mother are sent to
concentration camps. Many years later, Adam's only son Ivan (Ralph Fiennes)
starts in motion a bloody backlash against escaped Nazis.
is a very long film with no redeeming value that
follows a series of adulterous and arguably incestuous
affairs in a family that is no more Jewish than I am.
Most of them are cultural Jews. They cling to the old
customs but don't pray or hold in esteem anything of
their heritage. Adam becomes a Roman Catholic because he
cannot join the Royal Academy as a Jew. Persecution and
the chilling backlash of communism permeate the script.
It's eerie watching the Olympics proceed beneath a
swastika. Ralph Fiennes gives three fine performances,
and his leading ladies are all remarkably moving.
There's also an excellent cameo role by William Hurt.
The film crew did well in transcending time, and the
costuming is quite lovely. It does have some nice
moments, such as the scenes of Valerie's photography
passion, and their wedding, but otherwise it's tripe.
I don't want to get descriptive on the content, so I'll just say this: it's
vile. There's a lot of clothed sex (including brief oral, and a wife being
violently raped by her husband), along with related nudity. All of it is
fornication, and some of it is adulterous. We see a woman's bare breasts, and a
lot of backside nudity. Adam is forced to strip in front of everyone in a prison
camp, dragged around, badly beaten, and finally hung from a tree. There's
distant male frontal and side nudity. Violence involves a Jew being beaten to
death in a prison camp with rifle butts, a man forcing his wife, and battle
violence. Language involves half a dozen f-words, one abuse of Jesus' name, and
some mild profanities. I've grown to appreciate Fiennes' acting. He's extremely
talented, but seeing too much of him, along with having my impression of "Lizzie
Bennet" tarnished, didn't sit well with me. I felt dirty afterward.