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Gloomy Sunday
Gloomy Sunday
Actors: Erika Marozsán, Joachim Król, Ben Becker, Stefano Dionisi, Andras Balint
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Military & War
UR     2006     1hr 52min

Gloomy Sunday, winner of major German film awards and an art-house favorite that ran 70 weeks in Boston, hits all the right notes with its poignant, glowingly shot tale set in Budapest during the Holocaust and, like Schind...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Erika Marozsán, Joachim Król, Ben Becker, Stefano Dionisi, Andras Balint
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Military & War
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Love & Romance, Military & War
Studio: Warner Home Video
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen - Closed-captioned,Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 09/12/2006
Release Year: 2006
Run Time: 1hr 52min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 6
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Languages: German
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French

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Movie Reviews

An unforgettable, achingly beautiful masterpiece of cinema
Daniel Jolley | Shelby, North Carolina USA | 11/21/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Gloomy Sunday (Ein Lied von Liebe und Tod) is a hauntingly beautiful gem of a movie, a unique blending of romance, drama, and tragedy all compressed under the oppressive weight of history. This film lives and breathes, transporting you back to 1930s Budapest with beautiful cinematography, a fascinatingly brooding musical score, and the most human of characters. Released in 1999, I have no idea why this German-Hungarian film took so long to make its way to American audiences or why it was not rewarded with an Oscar for Best Foreign Film. Those of us fortunate enough to have seen it have certainly appreciated it. Just asks the folks in Boston, who kept the film running for a record-breaking 70 weeks in 2004-2005. If you have a heart and soul, this film will touch and haunt them both for a long, long time.

The title refers to a song written by one of the characters, but the historical reference is to a song by Hungarian composer Rezso Seress which became known, especially in America, as the Hungarian Suicide Song. Supposedly, many souls took their own lives after basking in the emotional power of this melody, but there is virtually no corroboration for the stories that have grown up around it. (One should keep in mind that the era of the 1930s was a time of worldwide economic depression, in which the Nazi menace cast its foreboding shadow over Europe and eventually the entire world.) In the film, Gloomy Sunday is basically a love song, written by a pianist named Andras (Stefano Dionisi) for the absolutely captivating Ilona (Erika Marozsan). Ilona is the hostess of an elegant restaurant in which Andras finds employment as an in-house pianist. He falls for the dark-eyed beauty just as Laszlo (Joachim Krol), the restaurant owner did, and the three soon develop a strange but very close relationship. Jealousy sometimes arises, as Ilona shares herself with both me, but both Andras and Laszlo would rather share her than lose her. I should point out here that Ilona in no way comes across as a loose or in any way disrespectable woman. She's an angelic creature, a woman with whom men constantly fall in love, including a shy, awkward German youth named Hans Wieck (Ben Becker), who leaves Budapest broken-hearted but returns several years later as an important Nazi colonel.

Laszlo, Andras, and Ilona grow ever closer over these same years. Andras finds instant fame as the composer of Gloomy Sunday yet still struggles to understand just what his song is trying to say. When he despairs over the staggering numbers of suicidal men and women who left life serenaded by his mysteriously cursed song, Laszlo and Ilona are there to rescue him emotionally. Their mutual bond is eternal and true. All too soon, however, the trio's strangely enchanted world begins to come apart. The restaurant is still prospering and "the song" is still being played every night by popular demand, but the arrival of the Nazis in Hungary casts an increasingly foreboding shadow on the lives of these incredibly captivating characters. Fear takes on a palpable presence in their lives as Jews are rounded up and transported to concentration camps. Only Hans affords them, especially Laszlo (for he is Jewish), any kind of safety net in this oppressive and increasingly dangerous environment.

The dogs of greed, betrayal, and pure evil inevitably come to have their day, making for an emotionally jarring final half hour of this film. The subtlety with which the most painful blows strike only makes the tragedy all the more intense - and instructive. That subtlety carries over to the ultimate conclusion, which could not have been presently more effectively.

I could go on and on about the unsurpassed strengths and natural beauty of this film, but words can never communicate my true passion for this film. Gloomy Sunday approaches cinematic perfection, in my humble opinion, and I would urge any and every person to experience its emotional power for himself/herself."
Lovely old style Romance... Beautiful looking DVD from Warne
dooby | 10/30/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This is a lovely film in the tradition of grand tragic romances. It is based on a largely fictionalised account of the legend surrounding a well-known love-song from the 1930s, "Gloomy Sunday". The song acquired its notorious nickname of "The Hungarian Suicide Song" because of the rumour (largely false) that it caused a wave of suicides of depressed lovers who listened to it. The original song was written by Hungarian composer Rezso Seress who earned a fortune as a result of its worldwide popularity. The film version of the story has little resemblance with reality.

The film is a German/Hungarian co-production based on the novel by Nick Barkow - "Das Lied vom Traurigen Sonntag". It begins in the present day but reaches back to a more idyllic time in 1930s Budapest. Illona (Erika Marozsán) is a dewy-eyed Hungarian beauty who is loved by 3 men, Laszlo (Joachim Król), a Jewish Restauranteur, András (Stefano Dionisi), a penniless pianist, and Hans (Ben Becker), an up-and-coming German businessman. Andras writes the song "Gloomy Sunday" as a birthday gift and an expression of love for Illona. Illona loves both the pianist and the restauranteur and despite their rivalry, they become friends at her insistence. With Laszlo's help, Andras' song is published, recorded and lauded worldwide. Hans, a frequent customer at the restaurant is the first to propose to Illona. When she turns him down, he almost becomes the first casualty of the song's curse. In despair, he jumps off the Széchenyi Bridge into the Danube. He is rescued by Laszlo who consoles him and nurses him back to health. Hans pledges his eternal gratitude to Laszlo. With Hans' return to Germany, the remaining trio maintain a pretty congenial ménage à trois, which lasts until the arrival of WWII. With war comes the return of Hans, now a Colonel in the SS charged with cleaning out the Jews from Budapest. By this time, the song's morbid reputation has made it infamous around the world. Now the curse returns to haunt those closest to it. Will Laszlo escape the Jewish pogrom? Will Hans be another Oskar Schindler? Will Andras live to win the girl? What will become of Illona? Despite its dark subject matter, the ending is uplifting with its deft twist and its theme of justice served through the years. I happen to like romantic movies and this kind of weepie story appeals to me. I also happen to love the music, which as Illona describes, has the perfect blend of sweetness and sorrow. A more cynical viewer may label all this as hokey and to someone who doesn't respond to the music (most younger people), this fascination may be quite unfathomable, but to each his own.

This Region 1 DVD from Warner is very beautifully presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio (enhanced for widescreen TV). The print is quite immaculate with sharp images, vibrant, natural colours and perfect blacks levels. The original German Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is also very good. I found the German dialogue perfectly clear once the overall volume level is brought up a bit. The piano and orchestral recording sound splendid. Optional English, French and Spanish subtitles are provided. There are no extras whatsoever but this DVD is definitely worth the asking price.

Note: This DVD is unrated but would probably receive an R-rating for nudity, sexuality, violence and language."
Matthew Thorne | 10/22/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"It is a rare pleasure to watch a movie that portrays characters who have such depth and which so successfully delves into very complex relationships. The subject matter is grim, but the humanity of this film makes it uplifting. I have watched at least 500 movies in the last couple of years and this is one of the two best!"
Haunting, beautiful movie
Jeremy Epstein | Fairfax, VA United States | 07/27/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I've never liked a movie enough to be motivated to write a review. The other reviewers have captured the themes, so I won't repeat them. It's a very emotional movie, capturing both the joy and sorrow in the midst of World War II and the Holocaust. There aren't many movies worth watching twice; this is one of the very few I've seen in the past decade."