Sunshine is an epic romantic tale about one family’s secret passions, tragic betrayals and unbreakable bonds over three generations that span the twentieth century. At once witty, seductive and serious, the film enters a fascinating territory where desire, family, politics and entangled lovers converge.
Set in celebrated filmmaker Istvan Szabo’s native Hungary, the story of the Sonnenschein (“Sunshine”) family’s rise and fall, loves and losses, unfolds against a backdrop of political turmoil and war, including the Holocaust and its aftermath. What emerges are both remarkable love stories and the saga of a Jewish family whose many longings include the dream of someday belonging.
Sunshine, directed by Istvan Szabo from a screenplay co-written by Szabo and internationally-acclaimed playwright Israel Horovitz, stars Academy Award nominee Ralph Fiennes in a tour-de-force performance, as well as an eminent supporting cast that includes Academy Award nominee Rosemary Harris, Rachel Weisz, Jennifer Ehle, Molly Parker, Deborah Kara Unger, James Frain, John Neville and Academy Award winner William Hurt.
Told by the contemporary Ivan Sonnenschein , the story begins with his great grandfather Emmanuel, who set out to make his family’s fortune using his only inheritance — a recipe book for the secret “Sunshine” tonic. Emmanuel’s son Ignatz builds on the wealth and respectability of his father’s success by becoming a powerful judge despite anti-Semitic obstacles. But within the tale of Ignatz’ ambitious political accent during WWI is his illicit affair and rebellious marriage to his alluring first cousin.
Dangerous passions also go on to alter the fate of Ignatz’ son, Adam. A dashing Olympic fencer with a will as sharp as his sabre, Adam becomes embroiled in a secret liaison with his brother’s wife. Like his father before him, Adam tries to deny his heritage in order to pursue his athletic dreams and career as a lawyer. But even Olympic fame cannot prevent Adam, and his paramour, from the horrors of the Holocaust.
So it is that Adam’s son Ivan chooses politics as his way of revenge, only to discover himself in the grips of a covert dalliance with a policewoman who is already married to a powerful government leader.
When Ivan is ordered to conduct witch-hunt for subversives in the government – a hunt that threatens to expose the explosive secrets of his own love and identity – he finds himself transformed, ready to risk everything to face the past and tell the truth.
In a tale at once intimately personal and sweepingly historical, Istvan Szabo creates a powerful metaphor for Europe’s last century and a boldly revealing family portrait of three concealed hearts.