Dir. Richard Linklater, 2004, USA, 80 mins
Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy
Before Sunrise came out in 1995, and captivated audiences with characters who seemed to come alive in the nighttime, talking about religion and art, lust and love. The flow of conversation between Celine (Delpy) and Jesse (Hawke) seemed personal and realistic, with its flow of 14-hour conversation. The Viennese backdrop, bathed in moonlight, helped to accentuate the romance. The two vowed to meet again six months later. He returned. She did not.
Nine years later, in a Parisian bookstore known well to the carriers of Lonely Planet, Shakespeare and Company, the two reunite in the film's sequel Before Sunset. They certainly don't have anything less to say to one another. Both Hawke and Delpy co-wrote this sequel, with elements of their own lives blending with the fictional circumstances. The result is a movie about "what it was really like to connect with somebody," says Hawke. "That is the mission statement of both these films, just to create drama out of the ordinary nature of human life."
After the first film, the two leads, along with the director Richard Linklater, mused on the idea of creating a sequel, or perhaps reuniting the poetic characters in a series of films. The return to a character is intriguing, showing growth and change in Celine and Jesse. However, there is always a risk in this growth, as a part of the appeal of movies is the fact that you can return to them years later, and the situation is ageless. However, not only have Jesse and Celine gotten thinner, they have also been hurt, become cynical and have lost a certain amount of hope that was very present in their fresh-faced twenties.
The movie exists in real-time, which gives it even more of a documentary feel than the first. Hawke explains "We wanted to take the whole idea of a slice-of-life to a new, heightened degree." The characters are more complex, less idealistic. They are both in committed relationships, so their powerful feelings cannot come to fruition in an hour and a half without regard for the people in their lives. A lot of their dialogue revolves around how they have changed and how they have unraveled as people.
Linklater states "I think that some of the tone of this movie is that they're very verbal and aware, and willing to share their ideas and deeper feelings about their situation." The ending is a cliffhanger, allowing the characters to age and expand in the audience's mind, until they potentially reunite on the screen.