Son of Saul won an Oscar for its portrayal of life in a Nazi concentration camp.
In his new film, writer-director Laszlo Nemes winds the clock back to look at how Europe let itself slide into an earlier abyss: World War I.
Sunset, which premiered Monday at the Venice Film Festival, follows a young woman in 1913 Budapest, on the eve of the war that shattered the illusion of endless European progress.
"When I made Son of Saul, I really wanted to go back in time to try to understand the mystery that took place in a few years, probably at the beginning of the 20th century: how a sophisticated civilization fell into self-destruction, how it went from an era of progress and unbound trust in technology to industrial murder," Nemes told a news conference.
"I wanted to interrogate myself of the birth of the 20th century," the 41-year-old Hungarian added, saying that's what his period drama Sunset is about.
It is one of 21 movies vying for the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, which will be awarded on Sept 8.