I remember when Before Sunrise was released in 1995. I didn’t have much interest in it at the time. I was attending the University of Georgia and having a grand time with friends. Part of me wishes I had taken my then girlfriend to see this. Maybe I would have ended that relationship sooner! This isn’t a shot at Sunrise, but a true compliment. If I would have let "her" drag me to this then, maybe I would have noticed what true love was instead of wasting away in a soulless arrangement for another year. Damn, that sounds bitter, doesn’t it? Not to fear. I found my soulmate in 1997. We both sat down recently to finally watch Before Sunrise together. Ten years after its creation, my wife and I fell for this romantic yet realistic rendezvous starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy .
Jesse (Hawke) and Celine (Delpy) meet during a train ride from Budapest to Vienna. The two main characters strike up a conversation and we find out he’s on his way back to the States while she’s returning to class in Paris. The film's biggest problem is the early dialogue seems forced and is too serious for me to believe. Could they squeeze a few more heady topics into an initial conversation? What happened to “What type of music do you like?” as a typical first question?
Even with dialogue that’s definitely self-indulgent, your believability in the characters is firmly cemented during this early meeting. Jesse and Celine seem real even when their dialogue doesn’t. Director Richard Linklater accomplishes this by filming the movie in overly long takes that allows the actors a good bit of freedom to develop their characters.
When the train arrives in Vienna, Jesse asks Celine is she’ll join him for the next 14 hours until his plane takes off. Of course she says yes - c’mon, it’s Ethan Hawke! As Before Sunrise continues, the early forced dialogue becomes more fluid. As the characters become more familiar with each other, Jesse and Celine seemingly become more comfortable with the words leaving their mouth. Interestingly, the first scene where you can truly see the love developing lacks any dialogue at all. Jesse and Celine share a listening booth. They trade nervous glances at each other while the record plays a beautifully poignant love song.
Jesse and Celine talk about everything and their interest in each other grows. They reach a point where you know they have to love each other, because otherwise... well, personally some of Jesse’s comments would have sent me running to the train station. The true genius of the movie lies in the moments when Jesse and Celine realize how fleeting their relationship is. While lying in a park, their true feelings aren’t hidden by obscure comments on life. They talk directly to each other about what they are feeling. With their time together growing short, they worry about never seeing each other again. Their love and hope for each other grows as the night disappears. Who hasn’t blurted empty promises when you are desperate to hold on to something you think is ending?
The last thirty minutes captures the torment of love (and lost love) more realistically than anything I’ve seen. In the end, they promise to meet again in six months at the same spot. There is no exchanging of phone numbers or addresses, they separate hoping their love will last and somehow understanding that they might not see each other again. If you want the Hollywood ending, stick with Pretty Woman. Before Sunrise lets you decide what happens after they go their separate ways; even if that means you hope you aren’t right. As a film, Before Sunrise has depth that most romantic movies could only hope to achieve. Sadly, the DVD doesn't even come close to that depth. I shouldn't be surprised that a movie that is 100% dialogue would have nada in regards to extras.
You can watch the trailer and you can listen to the movie in French. That's it. An actor commentary probably isn't necessary but a director commentary would have been nice.
If you were hoping for deleted scenes and other perks, you will be disappointed. However, I'd be surprised if fans of this movie think they needed anything else but the film to make the Before Sunrise DVD worth purchasing.
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