In this week’s instance of my renowned Tuesday Movie Club, one of my favorite films was screened: Before Sunrise. Actually, I have only seen it once, a long time ago (at least 5 years). I remembered the main plot, but practically none of the details. Yet, the movie stuck with me, due to the feelings it invoked. What lingered in my memory was the strong sense of romance and inloveness, although I couldn’t recall the scenes which generated it.
It was a joy to rewatch Before Sunrise. The feelings I had when viewing it for the first time came right back, filling my heart with emotions. Usually, it takes me a while before I can write about a film I have just seen. But in this case, so many raw thoughts have stirred up in my head, I feel I have to write this in order to attempt shaping them.
But before I dive deep into my thought process, I advice anyone who hasn’t seen Before Sunrise to press the “back” button and watch it before reading the post. I will not be giving away spoilers, but I do believe a film is best appreciated when the viewer is a blank canvas. I urge you to first form your own ideas about the movie.
This is a true romantic movie. There is nothing to distract the viewer from the romance. There are no sinking ships, no advancing Nazis, no opposing families. The entire film is based on the relationship between the two main characters, and the time they spend together. From a pure filmmaking point of view, this is a good film. The setting is very wisely used to enhance the scenes. The dialogue is engaging and smart. Writer-director Richard Linklater very wisely decides to focus solely on the relationship between Jesse and Celine, and lets them speak and speak and speak. Above all, the chemistry between leading stars Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy is without match.
These two last achievements are what pushes Before Sunrise far beyond merely a good movie. For me, it is more than a work of art I appreciate. It goes beyond the boundaries of the TV screen, and its own story. It stirs feelings and thoughts relating to aspects in my personal life. A well-designed character which is played in an exceptional manner brings forth a sense of empathy in the viewer. For me, Hawke did more than that. I wasn’t there sharing his feelings for Delpy’s character. In my mind, I was living through my own romances, those of them which were real and those of them that I imagine. The movie seized to be a story I see passively – it is my own story. I guess it also helps that I used to date a French girl and had similar feelings towards her.
This happens due to the phenomenal chemistry between both leads. This is what the inloveness feels and looks like. True, it is a fictional story. The events are highly unlikely. The characters speak so much that they surely must be reading out of a script. However, isn’t that just like when you are in love? Look back on dialogues you’ve had in past relationships. If you are past these feelings towards them, these conversations now feel corny. Yet, when you were there, in the heat of the moment, you’ve felt that it is the most logical thing you have heart, that finally the world has clicked and the pieces have been put into place. The same goes about the background, whether people or places. Don’t you remember the magical details in the background of your strongest romantic memories just that way? On two characters with lesser chemistry, the story would have seemed contrived. However, these two are in love, and this is what their temporary world looks like.
There were six of us watching the movie this week. After it ended, we had a discussion about it. It surprised me that not everybody shared my feelings. The two girls in particular said something which is exactly the opposite of what I have written two paragraphs back: they said that it is a nice pretty story, but they didn’t feel an emotional attachment to it. It took me by great surprise that we had such different impressions of the movie. After a while, an explanation came to me.
This is just how attraction works. Love is a different thing for different people. It is a matter of emotional interpretation. This is what makes the two people who share it to be with one another and not somebody else. A click. I felt I shared the chemistry with Celine and Jesse, because it fits with my way own unconscious definition of romance. It will not be the same with everyone, just as in the case of real life relationships. My flatmate mentioned an interesting point about the film – it can be viewed again every five years or so because the perception of it will alter as a person grows and changes.
Of course, I will now go on towards rewatching Before Sunset. I have very fond memories of it as well, and wonder what it will inspire in me on the second viewing. However, I am taking a few weeks in between, because I believe the gap does well to properly appreciate the sequel.
On a sidenote, this really is slowly transforming into a movie blog. This is not the intention, and I will write about other themes as well in the future. It is just that I am enjoying the art of cinema so much at the moment, and it invokes so many thoughts in me, I feel I have to let it out. And as the saying goes – no muse is bad muse.