Can the greatest romance of your life last only one night?
How can you capture ‘chemistry’ on screen? That spark felt between two people is such a fleeting and secretive moment, impossible to share: but this film savours it for its entire running time, a bittersweet feeling that never dies out. It is a deceptively complex film. Directed by Linklater after Dazed and Confused, it is similarly loose-limbed and comfortable with its characters - getting to know them well because there is only two to speak of. They are Jesse and Celine, played by Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy: at the peak of their careers, perhaps only matched in the sequels. They helped to write the film and it shows, as these are people who live on in your mind long after the close: their open-faced romanticism is always a joy to behold.
The two meet-cute on a train to Vienna and spontaneously disembark to walk and talk for a single day, in which time we witness the two-sided creation of a relationship. The way their emotions invade the simplest locations - as we feel in that all-timer ending - is remarkable.
Jesse (Hawke) meets Celine (Delpy) on a train travelling through Europe. He's at the end of a Eurorail tour, about to fly home to America, and she's on her way home to France after visiting Budapest, and is starting classes at the Sorbonne next week. They strike up a conversation about an arguing German couple, keep talking, and he persuades her to spend the next 14 hours wandering around Vienna with him until he catches his flight, during which time they fall in love. As you do.
A story of what everyone wishes had happened on their gap year, Before Sunrise is beautifully written, beautifully shot, beautifully acted just beautiful really.
Yes, it is a romantic comedy, but one that almost completely avoids the clichés and pitfalls of the genre. There are no misunderstandings, no sudden realisations; this is just a film about two people falling in love in a very short space of time. It's basically all talking, with no action to speak of, which gives you the slightly unnerving impression that you're eavesdropping on the entire film. Not that you really care. One of the best things about Before Sunrise is how incredibly real it seems the scene where Jesse and Celine discuss how far they're going to take their little romance strikes a particular chord, and the attention paid to tiny details of body language is phenomenal.
You know that feeling you get when someone you've fancied for ages does something completely inconsequential like pointing out the tag's sticking out of your jumper, and you get all excited and tell all your friends, but they laugh at you for being obsessive and then you end up going out with them. Before Sunrise captures that feeling. The only thing that leaves you feeling vaguely dissatisfied is not knowing how things turn out between them, as by the end of the film you really care. Or rather, that would have left you dissatisfied in 1995, but the sequel, Before Sunset, came out earlier this year, and we're showing it the day after Before Sunrise. So life is good.
Screenings of this film:
|1995/1996 Autumn Term – (35mm)|
|2004/2005 Spring Term – (35mm)|
|2022/2023 Autumn Term – (35mm)|