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There are certain aspects of films that just scream “depressing”. Some situation or facet that destine the story to be full of melancholy. “Gloomy Sunday” hits every one of these but the old standby cancer, and even made up some new ones. From the title to the timeframe, and every stop in between, we know we’ll be contemplating swinging from the rafters by the end.
Except for the intro that lays out the groundwork for the flashback story and the very ending, the movie takes place in pre-WWII Budapest, where we meet Laszlo, a successful restaurateur, and Ilona, a hot waitress who’s romantically involved with the boss. She’s so hot in fact that Wieck, a regular customer and German businessman, is completely crushing on her. Enter Andras into the mix – A Gap jeans commercial lookin’ pretty boy who’s been hired as the restaurant’s new pianist. He has the hots for Ilona as well, and for her birthday, plays a song in the restaurant that he composed for her titled “Gloomy Sunday”.
No woman can resist the old “I wrote a song for you” bit, and Ilona’s rubbing her legs together like a grasshopper for Andras. As the four characters leave the restaurant, Laszlo makes it clear to Ilona that their relationship is open, allowing her to chase after Andras so he can tickle her ivories.
Having to play third fiddle for Ilona’s attention is too much for Wieck, who tries to end it all by jumping into a river, only to be saved by Laszlo. I TOLD you it was depressing! Wieck leaves for Germany broken hearted, and the three remaining characters are now in a love triangle officially (would a 4 sided be a love trapezoid?) Oddly, they’re all okay with the situation and the men resolve themselves to share their time with Ilona. To quote a wise Bum, she must be a demon in the sack.
So what could really throw a damper on three people working together and having an affair? A couple of things actually. First, the “Gloomy Sunday” song is growing in popularity, and hundreds of people are killing themselves while listening to it. This naturally puts Andras in a funk, since he feels responsible for all these deaths. Second, the pesky Nazis are starting to make an appearance, which puts a Jewish businessman like Laszlo in a seriously uncomfortable position.
If you had not hooked the hose up to your tailpipe yet, back comes our old friend Wieck from Germany, in his shiny new Nazi uniform. He agrees to spare Laszlo from the impending “relocation” process if Ilona gives him what he’s wanted all these years…a big helping of that yummy pie you can’t find on the menu.
Here the film takes an even DARKER turn, and I was contemplating turning it off, but I’m glad I fought off that urge, because the very end of the film, although still depressing, made it all worthwhile.
Needless to say, you need to be in the mood for some seriously heavy drama before you pop this in. Avoid alcohol and even allergy medicine, and remove all sharp objects from the room. It’s a very, very dark love story, but was also very beautiful. The music and scenery were amazing, and added a tiny glimmer of light to the film. While I thoroughly enjoyed the film it also can put you in a serious funk.
If you’re in a situation where it’s your wife/girlfriend’s turn to pick a movie – recommend she grab this one. It’s far superior to the Sandra Bullock fluff you’ll be stuck with otherwise.
In reflection, I probably would watch this again. The extras are nonexistent, but it’s such a powerful story that I’ll be compelled to revisit it down the road. It’s not my usual fare, but it’s as close to a flawless doomed love story that you’ll find, and an easy purchase. 4 ½ cans out of 5.
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Added: Monday, October 16, 2006
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