Gloomy Sunday – Ein Lied von Liebe und Tod


Gloomy Sunday, the story of the urban legend, is a remarkable film. Yet another movie about WWII, and yet one with a difference…

I had read good things, but nothing prepared me for how much I would love Gloomy Sunday. From the minute it started, until the the closing credits, I was enthralled. The beauty of Budapest, the charisma and charm of the characters, the music, the story – this is an exceptional film.

Erika Marozsán is wonderful in the lead role in this film – a beguiling, intriguing woman, who playfully leads her life with two men with love and wit and charm. She is an exceptional character, bringing a hint of magic realism to her role, reminiscent of Audrey Tautou in Amélie, yet without the Rain Man act. In her world, one woman can love two men equally, without conflict, and she convinces her men that it is possible. She almost convinces the audience, although we are left with the uncomfortable feeling that the idyll must surely end.

The role of the theme music should not be underplayed – this film is built around the one piece, and draws much of its energy from it. A lovely piano piece, with voice and violin added, leaves us questioning its meaning, much as the protagonists are. (There is an urban legend about this music, which partly prompted the film, much in the way that the Vermeer painting inspired the Chevalier novel and then the film, Girl with a Pearl Earring).

The ending is superb, with a sense of clarity I had feared might not survive the preceding events. The plots are drawn together with excellent timing, a skill not altogether common, although recently seen in Before Sunset. There is a wickedness here – one can sense the director smirking as the outcomes unfold.

There is one negative… the film seems almost in two pieces, with a magic/romantic first half and then a holocaust-film second. There is a certain unevenness as a result, although the charm of the characters almost carries one away without noticing.

Gloomy Sunday is a wonderful way to spend a couple of hours. The music, the performances, the direction and scripting… all are excellent. The brilliant denouement only confirmed what I had felt throughout.

Rating: 4 stars
Review by Mark Lavercombe, 1st January 1970
Hoopla Factor: 4 stars

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