December 17th, 1999



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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

Director: 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 - Greta
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

Taglines: 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 (USA) (11 June 2000) (7 Screens)

Gross: $6,000,108 (USA) (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.

Anachronisms: 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 things.

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 and 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 cast a real life mother and daughter to play the same woman at various stages of her life.

Great movie, I highly recommend it.


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