Movie Critique - Before Sunrise (Before Trilogy #1)

For review of all movies in this trilogy, go here.

Stars: 5 / 5

Recommendation: The beauty of the entire film is the way the filmmakers showcase human emotions in the most simplest of the ways - with a touch, with a smile, with some stimulating conversations. One of those films that makes you feel alive; a feel good movie when you are down; not just a simple love story; keeping it to real life; and thoroughly entertaining and charming you. 

Before Sunrise is a 1995 romantic drama film directed by Richard Linklater, produced by Anne Walker-McBay, released by Castle Rock Entertainment. This is the first of the three movies made under the Before Trilogy. It stars Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy, Andrea Eckert and Hanno Pöschl among the lead cast. The screenplay was written by Kim Krizan and the director Linklater.

Jesse (portrayed by Ethan Hawk), a young American man, meets Celine (portrayed by Julie Delpy), a young French woman, on a train from Budapest. They decide to disembark in Vienna and spend an entire night roaming through Vienna, walking, talking, visiting several sights, and in the process knowing each other and falling in love.

A while ago friends from my blogging world had recommended this trilogy. This was almost 12 years ago, when only the first two films were made. I never could find the DVD from library when I had time to watch, and many times missed it when aired on TV. Finally HBO aired the first two films a few months ago. This review is for the first film in the trilogy. Hey! Better late than never, right! :P

This minimalist film deals with two polar opposite and complex characters - one cynical and one hopelessly romantic. And surprisingly at the end of the film things turn our differently for them. But deep down it is about self-discovery although with help of a friend or a partner. The entire film takes place on June 16 aka Bloomsday; a celebration of life of Irish writer James Joyce.

Though romantically made, the film reminded me so much of Paolo Coelho's  1988 book The Alchemist. The film shows the self-discovery in a period of 12 hours, one single night; while the book goes much deeper and longer in time.

What the movie gives to the viewers though a little bubble that Jesse and Celine build around them for one night, living within themselves hidden from the real world. We get a glimpse of the possibilities one could have if one finds the right partner; hits the right note; or opens the heart to the right person. 

The film became a box office hit upon its release which was inspired by real-life incident similar to what is shown in the film that happened to director Linklater. Sadly the person who was the inspiration died shortly before the movie was released.

He co-wrote it with Kim Krizan, who had acted in two of Linklater's films prior to working on this - 1990 American independent comedy-drama Slacker; and  1992 American coming-of-age comedy Dazed and Confused. Their collaboration certainly gave some beautiful dialogues and most of them leave you thinking deep. 

Celine: Isn't everything we do in life a way to be loved a little more?
Celine: I believe if there's any kind of God it wouldn't be in any of us, not you or me but just this little space in between. If there's any kind of magic in this world it must be in the attempt of understanding someone sharing something. I know, it's almost impossible to succeed but who cares really? The answer must be in the attempt.
Jesse: I kind of see this all love as this, escape for two people who don't know how to be alone. People always talk about how love is this totally unselfish, giving thing, but if you think about it, there's nothing more selfish.
Jesse: Why is it, that a dog, sleeping in the sun, is so beautiful, y'know, it is, it's beautiful, but a guy, standing at a bank machine, trying to take some money out, looks like a complete moron?
Jesse: You know what's the worst thing about somebody breaking up with you? It's when you remember how little you thought about the people you broke up with and you realize that is how little they're thinking of you. You know, you'd like to think you're both in all this pain but they're just like "Hey, I'm glad you're gone".

The poem Delusion Angel that a street poet (portrayed by Dominik Castell) offers Jesse and Celine in the film is actually written by the poet David Jewell for the film. You can read the full poem here.

The film ends in a cliff hanger leading to a potential sequel, which we already know that was made in 2004, 9 years after this film was released. Interestingly enough Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy's characters are the only ones who have names in the film. 

For a director who was hesitant to cast Ethan Hawke in this film, goes on to make 9 more films collaborating with him - 1998 The Newton Boys; 2001 Tape; 2006 Fast Food Nation; 2014 Boyhood; 2001 Chelsea Falls, Hawke's directorial debut; 2006 The Hottest State; apart from Before Sunset and Before Midnight.

The opening credits appear on train tracks and surrounding sceneries being looked from the perspective of a train leaving before the film begins on that train. 

I wonder why the film makers didn’t provide subtitles for the scenes in foreign language such as the opening scene where a couple argue over something in German. Would have been helpful to people who don’t know that language.

For some reason Julie Delpy reminded me so much of Lauren Ambrose, American actress and singer, whom I had watched in the 2009 Hallmark television film Loving Leah which was released as part of Hallmark Hall of Fame movie. Review of that movie is also on my list to post when it airs next.

Amazing that the only thing we see in the movie is these two lead actors talking and walking and visiting places. So much of talking between two characters I haven't seen in any film before. It was nothing boring or unmotivated or tedious hours at all. And there was absolutely nothing spent on costumes I believe since they are seen in the same ones for the entire film except for a red sweater that Ethan's Jesse wears in the beginning of the film. Filmmakers do make up for the beautiful hidden spots they take us to in Vienna. 

More than the ending between the two characters - Jesse and Celine - that the filmmakers leave it up to the viewers, the various places that those too visited that they show us, all empty, and ending the film on that note touched a cord in me. It wrung every emotion out of my heart and left me drained, in a good way. There are certainly some very small hints of the 1957 American classic romantic film An Affair to Remember in this film. 

The closing credits have the song Living Life being performed by Kathy McCarthy which was composed by Daniel Johnston

The beauty of the entire film is the way the filmmakers showcase human emotions in the most simplest of the ways - with a touch, with a smile, with some stimulating conversations. We see perfect chemistry between the lead stars; some really amazing dialogues; beautiful hidden places; and a self-discovery of love, life and future.

One of those films that makes you feel alive; a feel good movie when you are down; not just a simple love story; keeping it to real life; and thoroughly entertaining and charming you. Do not miss watching it if you ever come across it. Thank you to my blogging friends for suggesting this to me. Now looking forward to see the second film in the trilogy.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) Movie Trivia:

a. The two other movies in the trilogy are - 2004 Before Sunset and 2013 Before Midnight - again starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, and directed by Richard Linklater.

b. The two characters Jesse and Celine appear in Linklater's 2004 film Walking Life.

c. Adam Goldberg makes an uncredited appearance as the Man Sleeping on Train.

d. In the opening scene, we see Julie's Celine reading Madame Edwarda/Le Mort/Histoire de l'oeil by Georges Bataille and Ethan's Jesse reading All I need is Love by Klaus Kinski.

e. Jesse and Celine listen to the song Come Here by Kath Bloom from her 1984 album Moonlight. She was inspired to release a new album including Come Here: The Florida Years in 1999. Here is the video of the original song:

And the scene from this film:

f. The Ferris Wheel Jesse and Celine ride is the same one used in the 1949 British film noir The Third Man; and the 1987 British spy film and the 15th James Bond film The Living Daylights.

g. Look out for director's cameo. Linklater is seen playing foosball in the club scene. (The guy with the cigarette)

h. John Sloss also has a cameo appearance as the complaining American in Café Speri.

i. Several literary references can be seen in the film - Hawke's Jesse quotes word to word from the 1935 novel The Circus of Dr. Lao by Charles G. Finney; 1922 novel Ulysses by James Joyce; lines from W. H. Auden's poem As I Walked out One Evening

j. 2004 Indian Hindi language romantic comedy Hum Tum (= Me and You) has subtle references to this film. The way the hero and heroine get off at Amsterdam and spend a few hours with similar conversations refers to this film. That is but only a portion of the Hindi film though. 

k. This movie also reminds me of the Euro-Rail tour that Shah Rukh Khan's Raj Malhotra and Kajol's Simran Singh take during the first half of the 1995 Indian Hindi language blockbuster romantic film Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge (= The Big Hearted One Takes The Bride). 

2) Grammatical / Historical / Location / Character Errors:

a. In the opening scene, when Jesse and Celine are seen walking to the lounge car, Jesse's shirt is untucked and seen from underneath his sweater; and the immediate scene it is neatly tucked inside his pant and his sweater pulled down. 

b. When Jesse and Celine settle down in the lounge car and are talking, the views outside the train don’t match when the scenes are cut back and forth between them within seconds. 

c. When Jesse gets out of the train he is wearing a red sweater with a grey shirt inside over blue jeans. But after they check in their luggage, and walk outside the station, he is seen wearing a grey t-shirt with a black jacket. And Celine doesn’t change her wardrobe at all. 

d. Jesse talks about his obsessive relationship with "Miss July, 1978" of Playboy magazine, and he names her Crystal. But the real Miss July of 1978 Playboy magazine was actually Karen Morton.


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