Sunshine (2000)

Epic tale of one Jewish Hungarian family's journey through the first half of the twentieth century, as seen through the eyes of three central characters - grandfather, father and son, all played by Ralph Fiennes (though thankfully not at the same time; this isn't The Klumps). It's also a very complex moral and political portrait - indictment, really - of Hungary's less-than-heroic involvement in World Wars I and II, as well as through postwar Communism.

As the Sonnenschein family ages, consecutive generations stray further from their Jewish heritage, changing their surname to the Hungarian-sounding Sors, becoming Roman Catholics, even publicly denouncing other Jews. And yet ironically the rest of the country still sees them only as Jews, and is happy to crush them down whenever the cause calls for it. In fact, it seems that anti-Semitism is the one constant in twentieth century Hungary, whether the Emperor or Hitler or Stalin is in charge.

Fiennes' characters, though radically different in their lives, share a common trait: they are proud but self-deluded men who obey their leaders, have an unfailing trust in their corrupt governments, and are consistently destroyed by their ignorance as one regime topples and denounces another, one generation's hero becomes the next's victim, and so on. Fiennes' characters seem to symbolize Hungary itself.

Sunshine is an eye-opening saga of a nation's confusion as well as a family's struggles, and perhaps it's also a cynical statement that every political era consists primarily of violent thugs and cowardly masses, and the only people who manage to survive with bodies and souls intact are those who head for the hills when things get rough.

All the same, Sunshine, passionate and brave, is one of the few truly thought-provoking films out there right now. Fiennes is strong in his multiple roles (and quite the ladies' man - he bags more babes than James Bond!), as is the rest of the cast. Though it took a while for me to adjust to the very serious dialogue and shameless high drama, the film sucked me in. By all means, take three hours of your life and spend them with Sunshine.