In case you haven’t already guessed, I’m talking about two of the most beautiful, brilliant movies I’ve ever seen: Before Sunrise and Before Sunset. Both the movies stars Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy and isn’t much of a story in the sense we’re used to but more of this beautiful, delicate narrative, an event that is so simple and oh… it’s a delight. It really is.
I think I related to Before Sunrise just a bit more than I did to Before Sunset even though I love both these films and cannot actually pick a higher favorite between the two. I think I relate to Before Sunrise a tad better because both the protagonists are in their 20s in this movie. In fact, Julie Delpy’s character Céline is 23 years old during the events of Before Sunrise and I am the exact same age right now (also, the movie is set in June and June it is right here as I post this). So I relate somewhat to the character’s anxieties and apprehensions and expectations. I know how it feels to be in your early 20s and have all these anxieties about the future, having no idea (forget clear or otherwise) of what it is that you want to do and have this anticipation, this constant longing for love…to love someone and be loved by that someone. Whereas as in the case of Before Sunset, where the characters are now in their early 30s and are now contemplating and looking at life as 30-year-olds might. And here I am, I’ve no idea what it is to be 30.
The beauty of both these films lie in the conversation between the two characters Céline and Jesse. You’d think that it’d be boring to hear two people just talk for an entire length of a movie, but it’s not. It’s very nicely executed and I found it far better than a lot of movies that claim to have a “solid plot” (I am thinking about the likes of Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara). Both Céline and Jesse sort of come through from a hazy background as full, round characters as the narrative unfolds. And what is really amazing is that the way the two characters talk and talk and talk throughout both the movies, it actually feels like a real conversation and not at all scripted. They talk like two people would talk normally. There doesn’t seem to be any pretence about it. And they use language very cleverly, not only to tell each other their feelings but also to hide from each other their deepest emotions, all at the same time!
There are three scenes in Before Sunrise that I especially like. One, when Céline and Jesse go into a music records shop while they are in Vienna and they go into a listening booth and well, listen to a record. I was well and alive in the year 1995 & I’ve never seen a record so I was fascinated when I first saw the film that records were still around in the mid-90s. Also, I loved the expression on both the protagonists’ faces. The second scene that I found really nicely done was the one where Céline & Jesse go to an outdoor café in Vienna and a fortune teller reads their hands. It’s magical. The third one that I love is this scene towards the end of the film where both of them glance at a man playing the piano is his home. The music that man plays is utterly beautiful and I liked the concept of Céline & Jesse looking in inside a private space that isn’t completely private but definitely isn’t a public one either. And the pianist never realizes that he’s under a gaze.
There is also a very, very good poem in Before Sunrise that comes in a scene where a man proposes to write them a poem using any word they like, instead of begging them for money. If they like the poem, they can pay him. They chose the word “milkshake”, which I thought was clever. The poem was written for the movie by David Jewell and it is called Delusion Angel. Maybe someday I’d write an entire post on this poem, but for now, this is how the poem goes:
Oh baby with your pretty face
Drop a tear in my wineglass
Look at those big eyes on your face
See what you mean to me
Sweet cakes and milkshakes
I’m a delusion angel
I’m a fantasy parade
I want you to know what I think
Don’t want you to guess anymore
You have no idea where I came from
We have no idea where we are going
Lodged into life like two branches in a river
Caught in the current
I’ll carry you,
You carry me
That’s how it could be
Don’t you know me
Don’t you know me by now.
Like in Delusion Angel, we see that their love has a sort of creative ability to it. Their love seems creative in nature, able to inspire creation rather than destruction. A roadside poem creates this beautiful poem for them. In Before Sunset we see both Céline and Jesse individually get inspired from each other. While Jesse writes a very successful book based on their time in Vienna together, Céline writes & sings a song on it. In the movie, Julie Delpy sings this song and plays it on her guitar. It is called A Waltz for a Night. It’s an amazing song and whenever I listen to it, I think if the concept of True Love. Here is a youtube link to the song & it’s video:
I liked how these two films deal with various concepts, especially that of love, time, memory & language. For two people who have met only once, both of them seem very comfortable with each other even when they meet nine whole years later. You'd think they'd known each other for an eternity before they were away from watch other those nine years. But they weren't. In one scene Jesse tells Céline that 9 years have passed since that day in Vienna and she finds it hard to believe that it could've been such a long time ago, prompting Jesse to tell her that he too feels that it was just 2 months ago. This of course tells you a lot about the concept of memory...of how ambiguous and perplexing it is and how you can use the idea of it as a tool to hide your actual memory.
By the way, word of advice if you haven’t already seen these movies, please watch Before Sunrise before you watch Before Sunset. But please watch it; it’s a truly amazing film!
My ratings for
1. Before Sunrise: 10/10 LOVED this film!
2. Before Sunset: 10/10 A perfect sequel to Before Sunrise.
Other film reviews by me:
The Classic (Korean)
Jenny & Juno (Korean)
The Classic (Korean)
Jenny & Juno (Korean)
À la folie... pas du tout (French)