Monday, January 17, 2011

Film Reviews: Before Sunrise and Before Sunset (dir David Linklater)

I stumbled upon Richard Linklater's Before Sunset (2004) on a list of indie films. It looked interesting, a film set in Paris, a city with which I have had an intellectual romance myself, although I was only there in person for about an hour and never left the train stations or the metro. So unfortunately I  personally have never had the pleasure to traipse the streets that have been home to so many influential people in history. I love the french people, and try to speak as much of it as I can, whenever possible. So I thought this film would perhaps expand my vocabulary  whilst expanding my personal knowledge of film.  However most of the film is in english, so my hopes of boning up on my french were slightly dashed. The tagline, "What if you had a second chance with the one who got away?" perfectly outlines the story, which ultimately makes up for it not being in french.  It stars Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy as a pair of lovers encountering each other for the first time in nine years, after having only spent one night together in Vienna. If that isn't romantic enough, it gets better. The film itself is dialogue heavy, laden with philosophical insight on their lives during the interim. It's cathartic is a way that perhaps only someone who over analyzes every aspect of their romantic life could appreciate. It is so sweetly fantastic, mixed in with the bitter reality of what love is and how life works that it renews hope for old relationships and like an invisible friend patting you on the back saying, " there, there I know life stings some times but love makes it all worth it in the end when it works out." The film is set in almost real time, adding to the sense that this scenario is entirely plausible. The couple have very clearly impacted each others lives through this one chance meeting on a train and changed it forever.
There is little to no action in the film at all, and yet it manages to excite the mind in an intellectually stimulating way. The manner in which these two star crossed lovers have dissected their emotions about each other, and how their lives have unfolded in the mean time is incredibly relate-able. There is however an element of sadness in the fact that it has taken them so long to reconnect. The film forces you to confront your own personal dilemas in the romantic department. It asks the question, " If you knew you were with the wrong person for several years but had a kid, and reconnect with the love of your life you had thought you lost forever, what would you do?" I think the great result of this line of questioning is that (hopefully) we come to the same conclusions as the characters at the same time they do so there is an due to the real time element of the film.  I personally found this film very satisfying.
Since I enjoyed Before Sunset so much, I did a bit of investigative googling and found it's prequel Before Sunrise which is the story of how the two characters met each other and became so important to eachother in their subsequent lives. Before Sunrise(1995) is a nice enough story, but not nearly as compelling as it's sequel. Hawke and Delpy are shockingly young compared to their appearances in Sunset, and they are sweetly naive, optomistic, and invincible in a way that you are when you're young. They are charming in a way courting us with the intricacies of their courtship. It's a sweetly romantic film, but nothing too terribly special.

  I know the films were meant to be watched in order, before sun rise before sunset, but I think I valued the story of them as a whole more because I already knew how much the initial encounter has effected them , due to viewing Before Sunset first.  It was an accident on my part, but a happy one. I reccomend this film to anyone who has met someone very special they had to leave all too soon after just meeting them and spending very long time periods away from them, while yet thinking about them almost every day. It highlights just how rare and important those connections are, and underscores how valuable they are in life. They really don't happen all that often and when they do, you must really appreciate how lucky you are, even if only for a little while. And if you ever do get a second chance with "the one who got away" make sure they don't get away again.

Before Sunset 4 of 5

Before Sunrise 3 out of 5

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