How many of us have had that chance encounter with a stranger, meeting someone new and finding that instant connection? Life has these moments, it is something that everyone experiences, in some shape or form. BEFORE SUNRISE is the exploration of that meeting with a stranger, in this case on a train, and the evening/night/morning/ that follows.
These two people meet, find that just by talking they have this connection and jump at the chance to spend more time together by wondering around Vienna. They talk about the things that we all talk about, life, death, relationships, all the while their attraction keeps them together and they get to know each other in their short time together. This is a film that works so beautifully because of its simplicity and the way that it forms a connection with its audience, just like the two main characters.
Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) are both on a train, Jesse is headed to Vienna in order to catch a flight back to America and Celine is on her way back to Paris. By chance these two meet and begin talking, the attraction between the two on a physical level is there, we can feel it. As these two begin to talk and get to know each other the attraction grows to a mental one as well. On a whim they decide to spend the next half a day (well night) together, and they have an adventure on the streets of Vienna, visiting places and discussing all sorts of things.
BEFORE SUNRISE is a film that almost 20 years on, people still love and respect and it is not hard to see why. This is an honest film, one that finds beauty in the most simple of things, because that really is how life is. It takes a situation that everyone has been in, and it forms something, it brings us close to these two characters. As they find their connection, we the audience do as well, when they laugh we laugh, we smile when they smile. There are moments that are all too familiar and isn’t that the point? Being able to relate and experience something on the screen, it isn’t escapism because we’ve been there. It is a wonderful feeling, watching a film, that wears its heart on its sleeve and isn’t out to be anything other than what it presents.
The discussions these two characters have feel real, and whether or not we’ve had these discussions before, they hold interest. There is something so wonderful and fascinating about these discussions and scenes as they unfold. Jesse and Celine are honest with each other, it could be because they are strangers in a strange place, they feel a comfort level with each other to do so. In the back of their minds they have that feeling they wont see each other again, so what is there to lose with being honest. It is with these conversations that they learn about each other, and then become more comfortable with each other. As the night rolls on, this connection is hitting them hard and the reality of their situation hits them. There is a beautiful scene in a restaurant where they talk to each other, but in the scenario they are talking to on the phone with their best friends. The feelings they have come out, and it is just the rawness of the situation that hits hard, yet it remains such a wonderful thing.
At this point in the career of Richard Linklater, he had a few films under his belt and this was perhaps his most honest. Taking on two wonderful actors in Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy was such a great decision. Not only are they purely brilliant as their characters, the chemistry is amazing and it is something that is rare in films. Chemistry exists in cinema between characters, this is a case of it being so natural and sizzling, and rightfully fitting for the situation. Without that, this film wouldn’t work on the level that it does. Hawke and Delpy at this point, gave the performances of their careers and nothing comes close to matching them. Being at their young age, and their characters as well, the wonder of that age shines through them. There is never a moment that doesn’t work between them, each conversation and each scene without words holds such attention that who really would want to look away?
BEFORE SUNRISE is truly a beauty piece of cinema, it remains as wonderful as it did upon release. Linklater crafted a piece of art, each shot is perfection, and this is a feast for all the senses when watching a piece of film. With its relatable situation and characters that connect on a deep level, this is a film that still should be experienced by all age groups from teens upwards. Just like our characters it will leave you wondering about life and love, and smiling at the possibilities the future holds.