I’m going to take a deep sigh and just pause for a second.
You know, I’m kind of disappointed in myself for haven’t watched these films earlier. I mean, Richard Linklater is one of my favorite film writers and directors. I aspire to make movies about life and growing with characters over time. Even if the setting is in a day – like Dazed and Confused or over 18 years like The Before Sunrise series. He has a real talent for catching the essence of human existence and interaction with friends, loved ones, and the people around us.
So I was in a mood for a romance film. I just love seeing a connection between two people and seeing different personalities find and complete each other. The Before Sunrise series was everything and more than I was looking for. I had just finished watching My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Pride and Prejudice, two of my favorites by the way, but I wanted something a little more authentic. Google was my friend and I stumbled upon Ethan Hawke’s face in Google images under romance films and boom! I saw Linklater’s name tied to the film so I had to see what it was all about. Before I knew it, I was on the third movie and in a pit of emotion.
I don’t want to make this post super long, because I have a lot to say about these films. Just the conversations alone can call for 5 or 10 separate posts. But here is what I loved, and I’ll talk about the series as a whole even though it’s three separate movies.
1) The conversation
Beginning with Before Sunrise, the two characters get along so well due to their endless thoughts just about everything. Life, love, time, self-growth, family, etc. They share their deep thoughts about things that we continue to sort out in our minds and they sort them – out loud and to a stranger. Open to judgment, but more open to acceptance. In Before Sunset, the conversation is all about catching up and resolve. What has your life been like without me? Seeing two people reconnect after falling in love and not seeing each other for nine years is bound to be interesting to see and hear. It all boils down to, how could we ever be apart again? Before Midnight introduces more characters in the mix for a period of time – couples of different ages and with different connections. They share what works in their relationships and what it means to be someone else’s other half – most of the time. Then, there’s this epic explosion of feelings between our main couple as they let each other (and us) know what time can do to love. It’s not always sunsets and long walks where time seems to become irrelevant. It’s messy and painful..but all the same beautiful. What they say to each other is hurtful (to the other and to themselves), but necessary.
2) The body language
Most of the time the characters are talking in the films, but when there is silence the characters are still saying something and it’s powerful. The body language between the two characters is so natural and unforced. You can feel them falling in love even by a simple glance or a quick smile turned away. One of my favorite scenes is from Before Sunrise, when the characters listen to music at the record shop. They are trying to hide how they are feeling from the other, but they are so curious to know how the other is feeling.
3) The Scenery
Europe is the perfect setting these films. In the midst of seeing all of the ruins and the old buildings, there’s something true and unkept about falling in love. Strolling around and getting lost in conversation and seeing old churches and scattered tourists, then wandering into a coffee shop. People speaking different languages all around you, but all you hear is each other. There’s a foreignness and dreamlike element to the whole situation. Two people from two different worlds, meeting and connecting. Plus, Before Sunset is set in Paris, so yes…we’re going to fall in love.
Each film operates under a day for the most part. The titles set the time and cause a sense of urgency. In ‘Sunrise’ the characters learn about as much as they can about each other, because they have to return to reality and fly back to America and take a train back to Paris the next morning. They met by chance and their time together was to buy time until facing the real world, but it turned into something more prominent. The second film is the most urgent, I think. They have reconnected and fallen in love all over again and leaving makes less and less sense. There’s a flight to catch back home to America…to a family. They also learn that they were both in New York at the same time for a number of years and never crossed paths. The pain of ‘what if’ eats at both of them. if they would have reconnected sooner, their lives would be so much happier. The third film answers the question of what happened after reconnecting in Paris. We can see what time has done to the pair and they let each other know in a fit of rage and emotion. What have we done to each other? Is this the price of love? Can we beat it…before midnight?
The films kind of remind me of the 1960s French New Wave film, Breathless, with the famous jump-cut editing.
Anyway, the series is powerful and a pleasure to watch. It made me really think about what could happen when you fall in love. What happens when you separate? What happens when you stay together? Linklater is a genius and I applaud him for this masterpiece.
‘Til next time.