László Nemes’ first film was the stylized but grueling Holocaust drama “Son of Saul” about a Jewish man working within a concentration camp as a means of survival. His latest film, “Sunset,” is just as harrowing, and has its own stylistic touch: large, elegant hats.
“Sunset” tells the story of a young woman aspiring to get a job as a milliner at a famous hat shop in Budapest prior to World War I. She soon learns of the existence of a long lost brother who may be a murderer and finds herself witness to the chaotic, changing climate of the country as the Austro-Hungarian Empire starts to crumble. It’s a big subject, but Nemes explained why he felt the story needed to be focused on a humble hat shop.
“It was an instinctive choice, but I was interested in hats as being the symbols of that time of a very sophisticated society and way of behaving. The women had their hats and could go into details of their design, and the whole industry was based on that,” Nemes told TheWrap’s Steve Pond at the Toronto International Film Festival. “It’s a sort of ritual and code system that showed something of the illusion of the world that they were living in. The optimism. I think that the hats that are depicted are now seen as something very superficial, but at that time this was so central to so many people.”
Much like “Son of Saul,” the film “literally” follows its main character, with the camera tracking star Juli Jakab tirelessly and having her appear in virtually every shot. Jakab told us how she adapted to the tough constraints of filming.
“I got used to it very quickly. I had to. Somehow it helped me,” Jakab said. “Of course it was very exhausting to be in the middle of everything all the time. But being Irisz 12 hours a day, somehow it gave me energy, and it helped me go through this 54 days of shooting.”
“Sunset” is Hungary’s official submission to the Oscars Foreign Language Film race. Watch the interview with Nemes and Jakab above.
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