Archive for the ‘Richard Linklater’ Category

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“Before Sunrise” & “Before Sunset,” dir. Richard Linklater

September 1, 2009
Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke in "Before Sunrise"

Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke in "Before Sunrise"

I’m not a big fan of date movies. Most of them feel like bad Hallmark cards. Shallow, fake…something misguided fans would watch to distract themselves from the gray reality of their own relationships.

I didn’t feel that way about Before Sunrise. It’s utterly romantic, but despite the familiar set-up (two strangers meet in a foreign land), it doesn’t give into the usual artifices associated with romantic films. Instead, it builds a bare-bones plot around an overnight courtship, where both characters reveal how their ideas of romance colors everything else in their lives.

The dialogue is intoxicating in its sense of discovery. There’s no barrage of one-liners – that would’ve been too fanciful. Instead, the conversation unfolds casually, and neither character is afraid of taking a ludicrous turn. Pretty soon, their words overflow with sensuality, and it’s exhilarating how they never tire of each other’s thoughts. Their exchanges may be cerebral, but they’re not the least bit academic. Their intellect fuels their passion, and it relieves them of their rational inhibitions while keeping them within their senses.

When Before Sunrise closes, it leaves their story unresolved and hints at endless possibilities…

Then nine years later, in Before Sunset, everything’s finite. What was once promising feels out-of-reach. The characters have really aged and not just physically: they’re marked by nine years of pain and disappointment. Experience has left them apprehensive over the consequences left by their actions. Everything they do betrays a fear bred by that awareness, and the pacing fits this mood perfectly. The story moves in real-time, and the characters know they’re trying to outrun a schedule that will inevitably catch up to them.

The whole concept of romance lends itself to escapism, but nothing’s more detrimental to romance than self-deception – it could mean unrealistic expectations, bloodless compromise, settling for less or settling for something that isn’t there. Nine years after Before Sunrise, the characters take refuge in rationalization. “Maybe we would’ve hated each other,” they say, but it’s not an idea they fully embrace.

They can’t return to the same romantic ideals of the past, or live with the same reckless abandon, but they can’t let go of their idealism altogether. They hold on just enough to doubt their pragmatism, and maybe enough to ask for more.

Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke in "Before Sunset"

Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke in "Before Sunset"

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