Richard Linklater has crafted something so unique and beautiful in Before trilogy and more importantly the first movie-Before Sunrise, that it needs to be cherished and which very well can be regarded as the best romantic story ever made on big screen. There is something so breathtaking and fresh about the movies which I can not describe in words. It is a relationship to be experienced and to be guarded inside your heart.
Romantic love according to me can be divided into two categories, the first being the hopelessly romantic, these are the cliche filled; over dramatic; unrealistic, adventurous kind. Some famous examples can be The Notebook, Titanic, Casablanca among many other.
The other kind are the idealistic and realistic romance, they are movies with characters you can relate to, these are movies which can occur in real life and these types of Romantic movies have always been my bread and butter. I have heard that to each of us romanticism mean completely different, so you might disagree with me and i respect it. Famous examples of these kind of movies are : 500 Days of Summer, Eternal Sunshine of Spotless Mind, When Harry Met Sally, 5 Centimeter per Second and Before trilogy.
You can believe in love and life while watching Before Trilogy and that is something which most directors fail to achieve in their romance filled laugh riots these days. While the lead fell for each other, we fell for them, rooted for them, Laughed with them, felt angry at them and most importantly thought with them.
The simplicity of the great human emotion which people call love is unbending. And the director create that simplicity in Before Sunrise, there are not many characters involved in the movie, there are no sub plots, no comic element, no potential mates, no relatives, no rom-com cliches. Just ‘a boy meet girl’ story told with passion and with heart.
Before Sunrise (1995)
Before Sunrise stars Ethan Hawke as Jessee James an American who is traveling around Europe and Julie Delpy as Celine, a french woman who is traveling to Paris for her studies. They meet on a train and fall in love after James have a crazy idea of spending the whole night together in Vienna. Before Sunrise is a story of two lovers just roaming around the city in moonlit night and talking, knowing that this is their only night together.
There in nothing else to talk about as a plot, it is so remarkable that the 1 hour 40 minutes long movie still works so well, when there is practically no story involved in it. It is as if the director took two random youngsters and started filming them. Their relationship evolves just like it does in real life. There are no miracles, no love at first sight. There is a couple sharing their thoughts with each other in one long first date. And the moment you realize that they are no random strangers, they are actors acting from a script, you understand the remarkable brilliance of the script.
Two romantics traveling across Vienna, discussing things like love, life, universe, fate, religion. You might feel this is a recipe for a disaster waiting to happen. But it works so incredibly well, that we are left in awe of the script and the true innocent love between Celine and Jessee. They stumble upon a poet by the river Danube, who writes a poem from any word that people provide him. So he writes a poem on the words milkshake-given by Jessee and Celine- the poem written by David Jewell for the movie is: delusion angel
oh baby with your pretty face
drop a tear in my wine glass
look at those big eyes on your face
see what you mean to me
sweet cakes and milk shakes
I’m a delusion angel
I’m a fantasy parade
I want you to know what I think
don’t want you to guess anymore
you have no idea where I came from
we have no idea where we’re going
lodged in life like two branches in a river
caught in the current
I’ll carry you you carry me
that’s how it could be
don’t you know me
don’t you know me by now…
The last few lines describe what the movie portrays perfectly. It is about two strangers pouring their heart out to each other in the most innocent emotional attraction they feel to each other. They are like two branches flowing in downstream in the same current of life, when the poet asks, don’t you know me by now? It can easily be what Celine and Jessee has in their mind by the last act of the movie. Before Sunrise is about Self Discovery through exploration. By asking the required questions to each other they find each others’ true self. By the act of discussing and talking without any doubt in mind with a significant other they discover who they truly are.
The dialogues are written with a craftsmanship that is unparalleled in any other script. The dialogues feel real, they are just what we would ask to a person on a date. And thus the dialogues transforms characters into relatable realistic people. You feel their pain, their love because you can relate to them. You like them, you also fall in love as they do. And thus when they promise each other to meet again, at the station in Vienna, after 6 months. You will wait for them staring at the station after 6 months; the real question remains, would they?
Before Sunset (2003)
Jessee is a successful writer now, a writer of a best seller which he wrote based on that single night when he met Celine. He meets Celine again after 9 years, when she visits him after finding out that he is in Paris for his Book Tour. They talk about their failure to meet at the designated place after 6 months, we find out that Jessee made it to the station that day , but Celine could not make it because of her Grandmother’s death a day before. Jessee has around half an hour and then he have to leave for the airport. So they decide to go to a cafe and talk with each other about the things they missed last nine years.
We find out that Jessee is now a father and Celine is a humanitarian worker dating a war photojournalist. The movie again spans almost one and a half hour with Dialogues co written by Ethan Hawke and Judy Delpie with Linklater. This lead to a familiarity to the dialogues for the actors and they act at their most natural state.
If Before sunrise was about Innocent love and self discovery, Before Sunset is about confessing it. The character of Jessee and Celine are indistinguishably wiser. They have moved on from their care free younger self. Their conversation revolve around the politics and the world around them. They have their responsibilities and their own settled life now, but still something seems missing. Both of them are not happy in their relationship.
Richard Linklater directs this movie just like the way he directed Before Sunrise, he uses a steady cam to capture the beautiful city and Jessee and Celine walking in very long cuts. In fact most of the movie is well edited and made up of long scenes, with one scene around 12 minutes long. Linklater realizes he is in the city of Love, but he never captures the beauty of Eiffel tower or other famous monuments. Only getting Notre Dam Cathedral a screen time from all the monuments. This is a very brave and incredible decision as he captures the couple and their relation ship helping them in building up the characters.
When the moment of confession arises, the characters have been built up to its core. They are sitting in the car traveling to Celine’s apartment, when Celine visibly break down in front of Jessee, you can feel the hesitation in his actions. He tries to touch her hands a couple of times, but he cannot. He knows he has no right now to emotionally console her. But also cannot do that. immediately after when Jessee recounts his horrible experience of marriage, Celine almost touches his head to reconcile him and hesitates back. Ethan Hawke and Delpy has incredible chemistry and can be easily regarded as one of the best on screen couple. Which they prove in the next scene.
A reminder of Before Sunrise, when Celine and Jessee are climbing the spiral staircaase to her apartment, they keep stealing glances at each other never meeting each others eyes. A reminder of the listening booth scene in Sunrise, the scene conveys and shouts to the viewer that they are in love with each other. And thus after Celine sings a song she has clearly written on that night, the movie ends with the beautiful dialogue : “Baby you are going to miss that plan” and Jessee replying, “I know”.
Before Midnight (2013)
Before Midnight once more has a time skip of 9 Years it is summer of 2013, Jessee after giving his wife a divorce is living with Celine for last few years. His Son is in a diffciult situation stuck between divorced parents’ custody. Celine has two twin daughters with Jessee- who have not yet married- and they goes to a vacation in magnificent Greece. The movie starts as Jessee’s son leaves for USA, it is the last week for their Vacation and they have a night again completely for them.
Jessee and Celine has moved on from lovers to a romantic couple raising a family. They have reached their forties. Richard Linklater, in the last two movies created a perfect fantasy of romance and young love for ladies to sigh at. But with extreme patience and utter brilliance he destroys the fantasy and bring down the viewers to ground. Reality is always hard to depict for a movie director, and if the movie we are talking about is Romantic, it gets almost impossible to achieve it. But Linklater achieves it with the help of Hawke and Delpi’s exceptional acting and writing.
Linklater takes it a little further in a dinner scene where four couples of different ages are sitting and eating, while eating they discuss love and family. How love has changed and the issues of Modern Relationships, everyone feels at home during this scene, the natural actin helps a lot in transforming the scene into one of the best in movie.
Jessee and Celine are both successful yet unsatisfied, happy but still miserable. On the face of it everything looks good, but beneath the facade the truth lies that they are getting further from each other. The part of their life can be explained by midlife crisis which is conveyed in the title as midnight as a metaphor. The feeling of disappointment that arises in each relationship has arrived for them, making them question, “Does he/her really love me?
While not revealing the plot, the feminist approach the the director takes is excellent and commendable. The conflict arises after a few misunderstandings and takes a form of utter discomfort and uncomfortable shouting. The nearly two hour movie is carried by the conversation between Jessee and Celine, the tension is palpable and relatable, forcing the viewer to face the reality of troubles in any relationship. The main and important point is to learn from the fights,move on, forgive and understand true love.
The feminism felt a little rushed and inappropriate but worked in long run. Again Midnight like other two is run by gripping dialogues and relatable characters and that is what Jessee and Celine are. Not to forget, a pretty long scene involving nudity (only topless) which was absent in both previous movies. They are like your usual couple seeking out the boundaries of a modern relationship. Before Midnight is undeniably the most powerful of them all and fits perfectly in the movie series.
As Natalie says in Before Midnight, “Like sunlight, sunset, we appear, we disappear. We are so important to some, but we are just passing through. ”
Sunrise and Sunset are always short, Life is made up of short passing interval of happiness and love (Sunrise/Sunset) in a long feature film of realism, heartbreak and sadness. And Linklater captures those fleeting moment of sheer love in Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, but as we reach the midnight, there is no fleeting moment, no ray of love. Just pale, wan moonlight coming from the moon, like a small flicker of fleeing romance, yet burning deep inside; but forgotten through time.
Before trilogy is an excellent example of great script writing and character development through 20 years. And undoubtedly one of the best Romance shown in Cinema screens. And certainly a masterpiece.
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