December 17, 1999 0 By Fans
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The fate of a Hungarian Jewish family throughout the 20th century.

Release Year: 1999

Rating: 7.4/10 (7,968 voted)

Critic's Score: 71/100

István Szabó

Stars: Ralph Fiennes, Rosemary Harris, Rachel Weisz

The film follows a Jewish family living in Hungary through three generations, rising from humble beginnings to positions of wealth and power in the crumbling Austro-Hungarian Empire. The patriarch becomes a prominent judge but is torn when his government sanctions anti-Jewish persecutions. His son converts to Christianity to advance his career as a champion fencer and Olympic hero, but is caught up in the Holocaust. Finally, the grandson, after surviving war, revolution, loss and betrayal, realizes that his ultimate allegiance must be to himself and his heritage.

Writers: István Szabó, István Szabó


Ralph Fiennes

Ignatz Sonnenschein
Adam Sors
Ivan Sors

Rosemary Harris

Valerie Sors

Rachel Weisz


Jennifer Ehle

Valerie Sonnenschein

Deborah Kara Unger

Maj. Carole Kovács

Molly Parker

Hannah Wippler

James Frain

Gustave Sonnenschein

David de Keyser

Emmanuel Sonnenschein

John Neville

Gustave Sors

Miriam Margolyes

Rose Sonnenschein

Rüdiger Vogler

Gen. Jakofalvy

Mark Strong

István Sors

Bill Paterson

Minister of Justice

Trevor Peacock

Comrade Gen. Kope

Hanns Zischler

Baron Margitta

En skæbnefortælling om tre generationer i kamp for at overleve. [Denmark]


Official Website:
Hungarian Official Site (Intercom) |
Metropolitan Filmexport |

Release Date: 17 December 1999

Filming Locations: Berlin, Germany

Opening Weekend: $84,869
(11 June 2000)
(7 Screens)

Gross: $6,000,108
(8 October 2000)

Technical Specs


Did You Know?


The venerable courtyard and house used as the Sonnenschein family home in the film is, in actuality, the house where director István Szabó grew up.


When Ivan and Carole have a brief talk on the banks of the Danube near the bridge, we see evening traffic on the quay at the opposite side of the river, with a considerable amount of cars passing by, headlights on. There would not have been this amount of traffic in Budapest in the 1950s.


Ivan Sors:
For the first time in my life, I walked down the street without feeling like I was in hiding. My great grandfather Emmanuel must have been the last Sonnenschein to feel like this. I knew the only way to find meaning in my life, my only chance in life…

User Review

An amazing historical portrait

Rating: 10/10

I enjoy European history a great deal, but when my European history class
tried to find a good modern European history movie this year, all we could
think of was a bunch of war movies. Obviously, there is a lot more to
modern Europe than watching snipers creep around Stalingrad and other such

In "Sunshine," I found an answer to my search. It is undoubtedly the best
historical portrait of Europe from the late 19th-mid 20th century that I
have ever come across. It does an EXCELLENT job of showing the emotions
realities of the progressions of Europe during this time. Since it is in
Hungary, we are exposed to monarchy, fascism, and communism, all of which
are portrayed vividly.

As if the history was not enough, the movie is wonderful in other ways as
well. Ralph Fiennes has the opportunity to showcase an amazing range of
emotions and personalities in this movie, as he plays three different
characters. It was also pure genius on the part of the movie staff to
a real life mother and daughter to play the same woman at various stages
her life.

Great movie, I highly recommend it.