(aka 'Gloomy Sunday' or 'Ein Lied von Liebe und Tod - Gloomy Sunday' or 'Szomorú vasárnap')

Directed by Rolf Schübel
German / English / Hungarian 1999


  The German film Gloomy Sunday (released in Germany in 1999) begins in contemporary Budapest, Hungary, with the 80th birthday party of a German businessman, Hans Wieck (played as an older man by director Rolf Schübel). The import-export king arrives with great fanfare at the Szabó Restaurant, an eatery in which a young Hans (Ben Becker) spent lonely hours in the 1930s devouring the house specialty—beef rolls—and pining away for the restaurant’s beautiful manager Ilona Varnai (Erika Marozsán), girlfriend of the restaurant’s owner. At the sight of Ilona’s photograph on the piano, the octogenarian drops dead. Decades ago, Wieck had photographed her as part of his experimentation with a relatively new technology.

The camera moves in on the beautiful face in the photograph and the time-frame switches to the 1930s. Szabó Restaurant owner László Szabó (Joachim Król), Ilona’s lover, hires a penniless pianist and composer, András Aradi (Stefano Dionisi), at Ilona’s urging. She is instantly intrigued by the intense young artist. László, Ilona and András embark on a sometimes rocky, but generally enlightened sexual threesome. András composes a song for Ilona so melancholically haunting it begins inciting people to commit suicide. As András’ melody wafts across the air-waves, the suicides become an international phenomenon. Unable to cope, András shoots himself. He dies largely unconscious that his creation has captured a popular mood associated, if only semi-unconsciously, with the rise of fascism as it goose-steps forward.

Excerpt from the World Socialist Website located HERE


Theatrical Release: October 21st, 1999

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DVD Review: Warner Home Video - Region 1 - NTSC

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Distribution Warner Home Video - Region 1 - NTSC
Runtime 1:54:12 
Video 1.85:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.79 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.


Audio German (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Subtitles English, French, Spanish, None

Release Information:
Studio: Warner Home Video

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1

Edition Details:

• none 

DVD Release Date: September 12th, 2006

Keep Case
Chapters: 21




Strong image on a bare-bones dual layered DVD from Warner. Colors look bright, the transfer is progressive and subtitles are well done. The 5.1 track is largely untested but dialogue was rendered clear and audible. Unfortunately there are no extras, in a film that probably deserved some - if not a commentary, at least a featurette or director interview. 

Good film with some obvious moralizing. Beautifully shot and wonderful music score. I'd recommend this and can't imagine anyone not getting a least something out of it.  

Gary W. Tooze


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Distribution Warner Home Video - Region 1 - NTSC


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