#3 – “BEFORE SUNRISE” (1995)
Directed by Richard Linklater
Love and romance can often be both unexpected and wholly ephemeral yet unmistakably enchanting while it lasts, gently enveloping all it touches in a warm fairytale glow of seductive splendour and thus transporting those it embraces into an altogether parallel existence temporarily detached from the day to day mundanity of everyday life.
And it’s this very feeling that Richard Linklater evokes so sensuously in “Before Sunrise”, only his third film following “Slacker” (1991) and “Dazed and Confused” (1993).
A chance encounter on a train leads Jesse (Ethan Hawke) to make an impromptu proposal to Celine, a French graduate student on her way to Paris (played by the luminously beautiful Julie Delpy) when he asks her to get off the train with him in Vienna and spend the night with him before he’s due to catch his plane back home the next morning. Much to his delight she agrees and what follows is a truly beguiling adventure as the two of them explore the majesty of Vienna, talk about their lives and loves and grow forever closer knowing that come sunrise they may very well never see each other again.
It’s a wonderfully simple premise yet one that gives the film a definite sense of romantic urgency as their feelings grow ever stronger and the realisation of their potentially tragic predicament slowly begins to dawn on them.
Ignoring a handful of supporting characters the film solely rests on the shoulders of its two leads and both Hawke and Delpy deliver wonderfully believable performances with Jesse and Celine emerging as such instantly likeable characters that the audience are sure to impart a great deal of empathy towards them as the film draws to its inevitable bittersweet conclusion.
If there were to be a third party in this most magical of affairs then it would surely be Vienna itself which provides a sumptuously shot playground in which the two young lovers can play out this most fleeting of fairytales amidst a wealth of art, poetry, music and romance. And speaking of romance, watching this particular one blossom is a wonderfully heart-warming thing to behold from the sense of quiet awkwardness and cursory glances the couple share as they listen to a record in a listening booth to the endearing fake phone calls they take part in whilst at a restaurant that allows them to express their fondest hopes, desires and feelings.
An encounter with a street poet halfway through the film leads to a gorgeous scene in which he offers to write a poem for the two of them and in just a handful of lines perfectly encapsulates the turmoil of emotions the two of them are feeling at that moment. “I’m a delusion angel / I’m a fantasy parade”, the poet recites, such words further highlighting the sense that this is truly a magical realm they currently inhabit in which only the two of them matter and all else is transitory. Yet the coming dawn will sadly bring with it an end to this most intoxicating of illusions as the veil of darkness is pulled aside and reality is forced to take centre stage one more. As Jesse so succinctly puts it near the film’s dénouement it’s as if the two of them have re-entered “real-time” and following the heartbreaking goodbyes at the train station the film ends on a poetic series of shots as we see a handful of locations in and around Vienna that only the previous night seemed so magical and otherworldly to Jesse and Celine yet in the harsh light of day are nothing more than simple buildings, parks, bridges and cafés.
Nine years later Linklater, Hawke and Delpy were to reunite for “Before Sunset” which saw a chance encounter between Jesse and Celine in Paris lead to reignited emotions, regret, re-evaluation and reconciliation yet for me “Before Sunrise” will always be the more deeply romantic of the two films if only for its masterful handling of the sheer impulsive and magical quality of romance and the haunting sense of ambiguity that ends this most passionate of brief encounters. Witty, warm, smart, sensitive, passionate, magical and memorable “Before Sunrise” is everything you could possibly ask for in a romantic movie and one that never fails to lift my spirits and warm my heart.
“When isn’t everything we do in life a way to be loved a little more?.”
Track #12 – “COME HERE”
Written and Performed by Kath Bloom