László Nemes, the Hungarian director whose feature debut, “Son of Saul,” won the Cannes Grand Jury Prize in 2015 and a foreign-language Oscar in 2016, is about to start shooting a new film set in pre-World War I Europe, with newcomer Juli Jakab.
“Sunset” is set in 1913, when Budapest was considered to be at the heart of Europe. The drama follows 20-year-old Irisz Leiter, who arrives in the Hungarian capital after spending her younger years in an orphanage, hoping to work as a milliner in the legendary hat store that belonged to her late parents. She is suddenly confronted with her past and starts searching for answers about her family before stumbling upon dark secrets.
“Sunset” re-teams Nemes with “Son of Saul’s” producers Gabor Sipos and Gabor Rajna at Hungarian banner Laokoon Filmgroup, his two co-writers Clara Royer and Matthieu Taponier, and Paris-based Films Distribution, which is co-producing and handling worldwide sales on the film.
“Through the eyes of this young woman, we see the turmoil, chaos and eventual collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which at the time was the cultural capital of Europe, like Paris is today,” said Nicolas Brigaud-Robert, co-founder of Films Distribution, who sold “Son of Saul” around the world. The Hungarian National Film Fund is also back on board with “Sunset.”
“‘Sunset’ is about the collapse of a civilization. However, it does not tell a story of decadence but of fall, of how, from one moment to the next, everything can fall from the top, from the zenith,” Nemes told Variety.
“Although it takes place in a dazzling era, I do not intend to direct a classical costume drama in which everything is stretched out in front of the viewer,” Nemes said. “The world of ‘Sunset’ is adventurous, multilayered, but also problematic and unpredictable – which is, to me, the most exciting aspect about it.”
Set to begin shooting on June 12 for 11 weeks, “Sunset” is budgeted at 8.9 million euros ($9.9 million). “It’s a highly ambitious project, and it entails a vast reconstruction of Budapest at the time,” Brigaud-Robert said.
Jakab, the young protagonist of the film, was chosen among more than 1,000 Hungarian actresses. She previously starred in “Son of Saul” and is best known for her work in theater.
Sipos and Rajna said Nemes was an “exceptionally talented director with an outstanding, unique voice. Making a film like this one is what every producer can wish for – never a moment without its challenges and inspiration.”
Films Distribution has nine films playing in Cannes, across various sections, including Francois Ozon’s “L’Amant Double” and Robin Campillo’s “120 Beats Per Minute,” both of which are world premiering in competition.