Sunset (Napszállta) and the politics of the period film

Austin, Thomas (2021) Sunset (Napszállta) and the politics of the period film. Studies in European Cinema. ISSN 1741-1548

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This paper investigates how László Nemes’ Sunset (Napszállta, 2018), a drama set in Budapest of the early 1910s, gestures to but problematises the pleasures of ‘her-itage space’ (Higson 1993). The film combines the careful assembly of period mise en scène with a countervailing and systematic attenuation of this reconstruction, achieved through tight framing, shallow focus and extreme focalisation on the pro-tagonist Írisz Leiter. This strategy consigns many of the splendours of Belle Époque Budapest to off-screen or out-of-focus space. I explore how Sunset’s deployment and complication of the visual, and narrative, pleasures of the period film engages critically with attitudes towards history and the past; the resulting response to the film among Hungarian reviewers; and the gender politics of the film. The institution-alised gender abuse behind the beautiful façade of the Leiter hat store and its opu-lent clients parallels contemporary scandals. Like many period films, Sunset is set on the cusp of change, a moment when “the present imagines itself to have been born and history forever changed” (Sadoff and Kucich 2000). But it refuses to be sealed off as a closed history to be either nostalgically enjoyed or smugly judged at a safe distance from the present.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Media, Film and Music > Media and Film
SWORD Depositor: Mx Elements Account
Depositing User: Mx Elements Account
Date Deposited: 04 Oct 2021 07:25
Last Modified: 27 Oct 2021 15:45

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