Before Sunrise (1995)

Monday, April 21, 2014
Photo Credit: Before Sunrise / Columbia Pictures
As magical as the feat was for fantasy series Harry Potter to keep its main cast united for eight movies over the span of twelve years, it may be an equal accomplishment that the romantic Before trilogy explored the relationship of a couple every nine years with the same leads and director. The film for my April Blindspot is Before Sunrise directed by Richard Linklater, the initiation of a longtime love affair.

On a cross-country European train ride, a French graduate student Celine, and an American traveler Jesse, disembark from their plans to spend a night in Vienna together. Such a seemingly simple premise brings about such a romantic film, my head almost popped off from its poetry and beauty of young love.

Starring Julia Delpy and Ethan Hawke, comes a fairytale cinematic expression of love, life, and adventure. Exploring Vienna with this young couple, we spend the evening as their mismatched personalities morph into a hopelessly affectionate relationship.

The evening's events are witnessed in a gaze as a blossoming romance treads the murky waters of acquaintance emerging through conversations; the pair involved beginning as friends and ending ultimately as lovers. Isolated moments between people in cemeteries, cafes, and on a Ferris wheel confessing doubts and affirmations become the grounds for a movie joyfully filled with hope, love, and charming infatuation. It's a movie mainly of dialogue, quick kisses, physical affection, and subtle emotional display. The experience feels like real life only it's all too sugary-sweet and perfect to almost not be a fantasy. The conversations the characters embark on as well as the adventure is unforced, witty, and slowly releases tension as you see the incompatibilities between Jesse and Celine, and yet an emerging deeper relationship.

When I think of sincerely good filmmaking so often I wish for it to capture a slice of life; unforced, free willed, and uncompelled to deliver on a boisterous genre, theme, or blockbuster expectations. The stories that have the most impact are not sometimes the ones deeply embedded with director signature motifs or climax-driven storytelling through emotionally or physically transformative performance. Often times it's the kind of subtle movie that ten or twenty years down the road with different casts or directors simply can't be replicated.  A story that draws on the basic chemistry of two characters, and us watching them hopelessly unite ignoring hesitation and doubts, and embracing instinct and dreams.

Both Hawke and Delpy deliver delightfully organic and unrefined performances. The former as a dreamer and idealist also prove to be a willing adventurer, and college boy ready for life as it happens. The latter seems reserved and logical yet exudes a biting rebellion spirit yearning for available moments in life that are melodious. Together, they peel each other's romantic cynicism, the present, and their impending separation.

I so desperately can't wait to watch the sequels Before Sunset (2005) and Before Midnight (2013) and see how this young love emerges into matured relationship with all its kinks and comforts. However, after watching their love story play out for the first time, I'm hesitant to let go and allow the experience rub off. There's nothing like falling in love with someone (or something) for the first time.

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