It’s one of my Sundays, a plain and simple one, that I like. After four consecutive weeks of no more than working and volunteering I really appreciate today’s routine—beginning with my Mandarin class, followed by Mass at Blessed Trinity Church, cleaning and laundry. It’s even better when Mr. “Sunny” Sunshine was showering us with his gorgeous array of golden glow.
I almost fell asleep after a late lunch… but I bumped accidentally into Before Sunrise. I was actually curious why this movie only has one ‘big’ name, Ethan Hawke. It turned out that it’s a simple but elegant love story and worth to see. It’s a kind of movie that’s not to be scrutinized or studied but simply to be soaked into your mind and feeling.
Tagline: When love can come as a complete surprise.
This romantic, witty, and ultimately poignant glimpse at two strangers, Jesse and Celine (played brilliantly by Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy) who share thoughts, affections, and past experiences during one 14-hour tryst in Vienna. Celine, a stunning, low-key Parisian, meets the stammering American Jesse, as the two share a Eurorail seat—she’s starting school in Paris, he’s finishing a vacation. Their mutual attraction leads to an awkward meeting, and Jesse suggests that Celine spend his remaining 14 hours in Vienna with him.
The reality being so characterized in this movie that I think many of us can find resemblance of it in our lives. Its amazing dialogue genuinely resonates to our 20-something (probably the 30-something too) educated generation. It was easy to identify with the characters, and I certainly cared a lot about both of them. They look like your friends or your neighbour next door—ordinary people you meet everyday. Before Sunrise is a romantic talk fest. It celebrates the joy of conversation between two people who have just met and who are rapidly becoming enraptured with each other’s conversation and presence.
Jesse is an American who speaks only English. It opens with him listening to a couple arguing in German on a train from Hungary. He wonders what they are talking about. As one who has traveled on trains where I was constantly overhearing conversations in languages I knew little of, this was so familiar. At any rate, he meets a French graduate student (Celine) on her way to Paris, who speaks excellent English and with whom he strikes up a fascinating conversation.
They talk about everything. Many lines are worth remembering. When they are discussing the fighting German couple Celine says she read that as people get older men can no longer hear high notes and women low notes, and this mean they lose their ability to communicate. Jesse says that they are sort of canceling each other out and maybe nature did this as a way to keep older married couples from killing each other. He tells her about his idea for a cable channel showing 365 days’ worth of 24-hour documentaries about people’s real lives in different spots around the world. She talks about a visit with her grandmother. Then Jesse reveals how as a child he had a mystical vision of his deceased grandmother.
Jesse convinces Celine to get off the train in Vienna with him and spend the day and night with him wandering the city until his plane leaves the next morning. The scene of him asking her to go with him is precious. His logic is beautiful and his body language perfect. This is one of my favourite scene. The train part is the first 10 minutes of the movie, and the rest is their adventure in Vienna.
Whereas Celine treasures the magic in encounters with a palm reader and a street poet, Jesse’s response to them is cynical. However, in the end, it is his suggestion that they focus all of their energy on the rest of the evening so they can remember and cherish it as a singular experience. In the glare of the morning light, their yearning to stay together is palpable, yet they part.
Richard Linklater (director) closes the film with a poetic montage of the places in the city where they lingered and bared their souls, which seem somehow changed for their having been there. And we know that for Jesse and Celine their one enchanted evening in Vienna will be an oasis in time that they will savor for the rest of their lives.
In a world where characters seem to cautiously approach a tentative friendship before diving into an impulsive romantic relationship, it is almost refreshing to see both happening at once. From the moment Jesse meets the luminous Celine there is a soul connection that defies definition.
At first, Celine seems to overwhelm Jesse with her intellectual wanderings and yet she playfully allows him to tease her. The chemistry is phenomenal and the sheer beauty of various scenes made me realize how the simplicity of the settings actually enhanced the emotional aspects.
The playful banter reaches some humorous high points that are beyond witty. Celine and Jesse seem to share a natural chemistry, which allows them to speak honestly without fear of rejection. Together they find a delicate balance of revelation and anticipation.
Throughout the entire movie I never feel that I am on the outside looking in, although I think that is the underlying attraction. I was so mesmerized by their dialogue that I felt I became each character as they were speaking. This is bliss for anyone who loves the sheer honesty of life itself. Jesse and Celine delve into philosophy, creatively describe their first romantic feelings and enjoy a spontaneous merging of the minds.
When they meet on a train heading to Vienna, neither imagines they will encounter a reality that is better than any fantasy. There is a sweet innocence pervading this entire movie with an underlying erotic tension that never seems to find complete fulfillment on screen. While the characters make me aware that they try not to be melancholy when they bid their farewell—it’s so obvious that they already miss each other towards the end of the movie.
When Celine and Jesse meet again in Paris I can’t help but wonder about the meeting they originally planned when they departed. Would these two ever connect on more than a soul level, did they connect before and would this continuing conversation lead to some mutual fulfillment? The uncertainty of their future certainly intrigues me.
If you want a complete film review, I got this one for you from James Berardinelli
United States, 1995
U.S. Release Date: 1/27/95
Running Length: 1:41
MPAA Classification: R (Mature themes, language)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy
Director: Richard Linklater
Producer: Anne Walker-McBay
Screenplay: Richard Linklater and Kim Krizan
Cinematography: Lee Daniel
U.S. Distributor: Columbia Pictures
Richard Linklater, the creator of Slackers and Dazed and Confused, has succeeded where many before him have failed ~ in fashioning a modern-day romance that is both original and enthralling. Before Sunrise is nothing short of movie magic, and the kind of film that deserves to be remembered one long year from now when 1996’s Oscar nominations are handed out.
Even the best romantic comedy/dramas tend to be formula-driven, frequently relying more upon actor chemistry than plot. Surprises are about as foreign to this genre as a pacifist hero is to a shoot-’em-up. Somewhere along the way, a storyteller originated the basic love story structure. Film makers have religiously followed this roadmap, rarely taking more than an occasional minor detour. With Before Sunrise, however, Linklater not only travels an entirely different route, but heads for a new destination.
Frankly, this is not the sort of film one usually expects to find in multiplexes. In fact, if it weren’t in English, it might be possible to mistake this for the work of someone like Eric Rohmer. The plentiful and varied dialogue has a richness that few screenplays manage to capture. Most of Before Sunrise is talking. The characters touch on subjects ranging from language and reincarnation to sexuality and cable access shows.
Jesse (Ethan Hawke) meets Celine (Julie Delpy) on a train traveling through Europe. His destination is Vienna, where a flight back to America awaits him the next morning. She’s on her way to Paris, where she starts classes at the Sorbonne next week. From their first moment of eye contact, they’re drawn to each other. They share a meal in the lounge car, savoring the conversation more than the food, and when they arrive in Vienna, Jesse persuades Celine to disembark with him and keep him company wandering the streets until the time comes for his plane to depart. Thus begins an unforgettable screen romance.
One of the first things to notice about Before Sunrise is how completely natural it all seems. Credit both director Linklater and his two leads. The rapport between Jesse and Celine is so lacking in artifice that at times the viewer feels like a voyeur. We are privy to everything, including the sort of “unimportant” dialogue that most films shy away from. Here, its inclusion is just one of many fresh elements.
Hawke (the American grunge actor who starred opposite Winona Ryder in Reality Bites) and Delpy (the French actress from Europa Europa, White, and Killing Zoe) are nothing short of perfect. For this film to work, they have a threefold task: embrace their characters, attract each other, and connect with the audience. Needless to say, all are accomplished flawlessly. From the first stolen glance, there’s never any question about their chemistry, and it takes no more time for the audience to be enraptured by Jesse and Celine than it does for them to fall for each other.
Before Sunrise is about life, romance, and love. It magnifies the little things, paying scrupulous attention to the subtleties and mannerisms of body language. There’s one scene where Jesse has to restrain himself from brushing away a stray lock of Celine’s hair, and another wonderful moment in a music listening booth where the characters nervously avoid eye contact.
This film is an amalgamation of such memorable scenes, yet, as they saying goes, the whole is more than a sum of its parts. Questions about fate and the transitory nature of relationships are raised, and then left open for the audience to ponder. There are moments of unforced humor, and times of bittersweet poignancy. Before Sunrise speaks as much to the mind as to the heart, and much of what it says is likely to strike a responsive chord ~ a rare and special accomplishment for any motion picture.