I always thought Linklater’s films were either a hit or a miss. Fast Food Nation was a poorly made, and Bernie was just unsatisfying with a terrible performance by Shirley MacLaine (Jack Black is barely able to save the movie). On the other hand, I consider Boyhood to be a masterpiece. Well, now I can forgot all of that because Before Sunrise is likewise… a masterpiece. If you haven’t seen yet, which you should, it’s basically a what if story. What if a dashing young man (Ethan hawk here isn’t exactly what I would call dashing, just a question of taste, but he is charming) asked you to get off the train at Vienna and spend the day with him, after only having known you for a couple of minutes. It’s the type of story you entertain your mind with, you imagine all the philosophical and deep conversations you would have, how you would meander around town meeting strange new people on the way. Of course, in real life, that never happens, it’s only in our imagination. Which is why this movie is so enthralling and delightful. I couldn’t stop grinning while watching it. The movie is framed between two lonely travellers, this out of time surreal fantasy and back again. This movie hops over the kitsch and the cheesy, thanks to three things: First of all, the characters are fully aware in which situation they are in, referring their experience as “out of time” and alluding to fairy tales. They themselves look like XVth century characters in 90’s clothes, Jesse (Hawks character) even tells her at one point that she (Céline, Delpie character) looks like a Botticelli portrait. The movie itself feels like a back in time story, Vienna looks like it could be in any period of history.At the night ends, they seem to descend into this timeless space. The camera, at first cold and akward ascends to this bubble of magic, it becomes accustomed to the two heroes the same way the viewer does too.The posters and modern elements contrast with the classic scenery, the same way their love clashes with the time they’re living in. Of course, referring to the infinity of art and youthfull love.
Second of all, out everything, I was the most impressed by the script. Let me explain: both characters have very “deep” and cringe worthy conversations, but what saves us from suffocation is the fact that all that they say is true, we understand what they’re saying, we’ve thought of them all before. When we think of them in our minds, our thoughts sound so profound and well-articulated, and we can hear that in their sincerity, but when we say it aloud, it sounds phony and pretentious. But this makes it even more realistic and … sorry… relatable.
What surprised me the most was how human relations has changed since the 90’s: there was no social media, they talk about writing letters to each other. Which is normal because, well, it didn’t exist, and maybe for the better. The choice of either keeping in touch with letters/calling each other or never seeing each other, is no longer a choice today. The beauty of the movie, that the characters also recognise, is the how brief their moment together, the finite of their love, they refer to the moment where they will have to part as “death”. Today, all they have to do is go on Instagram and every day you will see what the other is doing. It makes the present seam irrelevant, being physically with your loved one doesn’t really matter anymore, there’s facetime and snapshot. The tragedy that they impose upon themselves is characteristic of youth love, but can it still exist today? Can there be the same type of tragedy in a contemporary film? I’m not saying there can’t, there has been of course, but I found it moving to watch a romantic movie at the cusp of an ancient world, and it is this mix of this pure timeless love and time constraint as the enemy that makes this movie so special.
L.L . Wooden