I like to feel his eyes on me when I look away – Celine
Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise is about Celine (Julie Delpy) who is on a train to Paris on which she meets Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and after Jesse strikes up a conversation with Celine, they find they have sort of connection with each other. Jesse has decided to get off at Vienna and catch a flight next morning. So he urges Celine to get off with him at Vienna and spend a day just talking, and surprisingly Celine obliges. So, Jesse and Celine just wander around in Vienna discussing about love while trying to come in terms with the obvious spark between them.
Ethan Hawke is brilliant. The way he conducts himself around this movie is superb. If you have watched the movie, you may remember the scene in which Jesse urges Celine to roam around and talk in Vienna for a day. There was more than dialogue to it. Instead of asking Celine in the predicted way which is keep on requesting, he just gets up and points repeatedly at the door. That was a moment of utter brilliance. Julie Delpy is phenomenal in this movie. The way she asserts her dialogues is just fascinating. A low, sweet voice yet commanding. And in many movies, when a character has a foreign accent, the narrative keeps on using it to make hilarious moments. There were only two or three mentions of Celine’s accent and the rest of the time, the narrative impressively downplayed it.
I watched this movie the previous Saturday and honest to god, I didn’t sleep a bit. My style of forming a review is that when I am in a cinema hall, I just write down the points at the intermission and at the end and then elaborate on them. When I am watching it on DVD or television I take down the points at an interval of 45 minutes. And the time I was finished with Before Sunrise, I had a page full of points. Then i went to sleep. But I kept on thinking about this movie and had a new point every 15 minutes or so. I had went to sleep at 1 am but I finally slept at 4 am.
Such is the brilliance of this flick. This review is going to be very long because it wouldn’t be justice to this review and the movie if I don’t analyze this movie deeply. And don’t worry, it is spoiler free.
This film is not for everyone. It is basically just two people walking around Vienna and presenting their ideologies about love and life. They also meet certain characters which also present them with a new perspective. The movie is basically just two people just talking to each other for 101 minutes. But there isn’t a second where I was bored by either Celine nor Jesse. I should have wrote this review a lot earlier, but I gave it the one week test. So, what you do is you watch a movie and if you have liked it, try to picture the characters in the movie after a week, and if you can do that, it means the characters have stayed with you. I did it with Celine and Jesse and their image came into my mind as clear as if they were still in motion on my computer screen.
This movie would have been a huge failure if it had only been Linklater as the screenplay writer. There would have been a moment where Celine would have been downplayed. Linklater and Kim Krizan have bestowed their thoughts and ideologies into two characters. The ideologies of both Celine and Jesse are poles apart. But, that’s what makes them a perfect match. An ideologies is contradicted by the other one which is contradicted by the other one and so on.
The chemistry between the leads is so pure. I think one of the most definitive and unsung moments of this movie is when Jesse and Celine get on a train and Jesse tries to move Celine’s hair near her ears and Celine just obstructs his hand and does it herself. It is a blink and miss moment which many haven’t noticed at all. But that was the inception of their relationship actually. From not letting Jesse touch even her air, Celine lets down the guard, takes Jesse’s hand and puts it around her. That was where the romance blossomed I think.
There are different ideologies presented in Before Sunrise that I would like to discuss about. Once was when Jesse says that although people say they actually save time by using technology, nobody ever uses that acquired time. I love movies which challenge my own beliefs. Once other ideology of Jesse was that reincarnation is not real. I was of the belief that reincarnation is real but the logic Jesse puts forth has changed my whole perspective about that topic. Another was that everything we do is a way to be loved little more. That’s right, don’t you think ? I study because I want to be loved more by parents, I write this reviews because I want to be loved by the cinema going audience and I do my homework to be loved by my teachers. It all adds up, doesn’t it ?
Then there is a scene in the movie where Jesse and Celine go to a record store and listen to a single at the listening booth. That scene I think is the most intimate scene I have seen in all the movies that I have watched. So, when Jesse looks at Celine she turns her head away and when Celine looks at Jesse, he turns his head away and when none of them are looking at each other, they have a smirk on their faces. Then there is another scene in which Jesse and Celine fake call each other at a restaurant and Celine says ‘ I like to feel his eyes on me when I am looking away’. That is the only uniting factor between these stark different personalities, that they both like to feel each other’s eyes on them when they are looking away. That was the building block of their relationship I guess.
Fake phone call scene ! Jesse and Celine confess to each other everything that they felt about each other from the first time they met on that train. It is a definitive moment in the movie because for the past 50 minutes we had been hearing their thoughts, not feelings. The movie would have been sort of incomplete without that scene.
I think one of the reason this movie feels so otherworldly, special or romantic is that this romance was officially never meant to happen. Jesse was to get off a Vienna and Celine at Paris. They would have never even talked if it wasn’t for that fighting couple. That’s destiny as we know it.
Also, the movie explores finite relationships. The ones that explored finite relationships are (500)Days of Summer, Up in the Air and Annie Hall. So you know how awesome this one’s gonna be as well. (Annie Hall wasn’t that great) It just shows that relationships don’t have to be in motion till the end. They can last a very short time and yet leave an unexpected impact on an individual’s life. Everything Celine and Jesse believed in was challenged in a day. Before Sunrise is like a debate. It doesn’t have a final verdict on which side was more satisfying. That is left to us, the audience.
The most philosophical among the ideas put forth was when Jesse said he hated himself. That is so true ! I hate myself. I hate that I don’t go out and socialize. I hate that I can’t strike up a conversation. I hate that I can’t pick up fights. My body is a cage in itself. Real freedom is when we can break from the shackles of our own personality. When we do the things we could have never done before. You know how you are gonna react to every situation which appears in front of you. If somebody picked up a fight with me, I will just defend myself and complain to the class teacher. But there is always this desire, that I just break the guy’s nose. There is freedom within us, it is just hard to unleash it from our self-created shackles.
The cinematographer is a genius. Has anybody noticed that the scene in which Celine walks towards her compartment is exactly the same ? The most thoughtful shot of the movie was the one in the climax where all the locations that Celine and Jesse visited are shown one by one. They look so quiet, so uninteresting. That was the message of the movie, I think. That it is the love that exists between people that makes the earth so beautiful not its own beauty. Like Celine said, it is the magic in the space between her and Jesse that was so special. We are mesmerized by the beauty of Vienna only when we have someone to share with, in this case Jesse and Celine. Without them, it is just a place.
Another thing that made this movie so special and easy in nature despite is high philosophy was that for every ideology put forth by Jesse or Celine they gave a real life example to prove it. The philosophy was made relatable by bestowing the ideology into the lives of various characters. Sandra Adair is one of my favourite editors and this is why. You are watching a 110 minutes movie and still after watching it you feel as tired as if you were roaming around Vienna with Jesse and Celine. It never feels that we missed out one something, which has always been a problem with movies with a short running time.
The only thing that troubled me about the movie was it almost nil use of score. But, I think it was done purposely so that the audience don’t have any sort of distractions or experience inaudibility while listening to this conversation.
Before Sunrise is thoughtful, witty and unconventional in its nature. The lead performances by Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy are mesmerizing and the way the various ideologies are presented and debated upon are so lively that we don’t mind watching two souls wander in Vienna and just …..talk. This Richard Linklater classic is undoubtedly one of the greatest celebrations of love ever captured on screen and is a must watch.
Rating : 9.5 / 10
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