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Gloomy Sunday (2000)
Not Rated

Starring: Erika Marozsan, Joachim Krol, and Ben Becker

Rating:
***
out of
*****

Laszlo (Joachim Krol) is a successful Jewish restaurant owner in Budapest, Hungary circa 1938. His lovely assistant, Ilona (Erika Marozsan), is his biggest asset as well as his lover. When Laszlo and Ilona decide to hire a pianist, Andras (Stefano Dionisi) walks in and steals Ilona's heart. However, she becomes torn between Laszlo and Andras. Laszlo decides he'd rather have a part of her heart than not having her in his life at all and the three form a very odd love triangle.

Andras writes a song for Ilona, entitled "Gloomy Sunday," which he begins to play at the restaurant. Soon, the song attracts enough attention to become a big hit, providing Andras and the restaurant in which it was composed with notoriety. Unfortunately, the song's somber tone seems to have an unusual side-effect. People begin committing suicide shortly after hearing it.

One of the restaurant's regular customers, Hans (Ben Becker), a German businessman, has also fallen in love with Ilona. He promises her that, if she'll marry him, he'll build the biggest import-export business in Germany just for her. She turns him down and, after hearing the song, he jumps off a bridge into the Danube River. He survives and, a few years later, returns to the restaurant. This time, though, he's not a businessman but an SS officer in the Germany army. Again, he makes a play for Ilona but with his newfound position of power, he is able to handle her rebuttals much differently.

Gloomy Sunday is a fine film, with beautiful photography and a wealth of fine performances, but the story -- which is a bit on the unusual side in terms of subject matter -- wraps itself up a little too neatly for my tastes. I had more or less figured out the ending by the middle of the film and that's only because of opening scene. Gloomy Sunday tipped its hand a little too soon and, while not spoiling the film completely, made it somewhat less enjoyable. (I'd provide details, but I don't want to spoil the film for anyone.)

Still, the film is well worth seeing if only for the beauty of Erika Marozsan. Her character in the film, Ilona, causes one man to exclaim, "What a woman!" And, at the risk of sounding like a complete pig, I'd have to say he's right. She's stunningly beautiful and, since her character is also required to be completely captivating, she's perfectly cast in the role.

Produced in Europe in 1999, this film is finally getting an American release this year. I don't know why it took so long to reach the States, but it's a solid -- if imperfect -- film that is well worth searching out.

Trivia: Erika Marozsan also appears in 2002's direct-to-video Sniper II, with Tom Berenger. (Source: The Internet Movie Database)

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