Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Before Midnight : True Romance

Three years ago, a friend told me about two movies and ‘Nothing happening in the movie except conversations.’ and I think, Well, the guy who made the movies must have a lot of guts to have faith in his audience. Little did I know Richard Linklater, did not only have faith but a heart and soul and guts in spades because he drew me right into his world with witty dialogue, minimal screenplay and amazing eye for beauty.



“Before Sunrise” till day, remains one of my favourite movies. I don’t miss an opportunity to watch it again and again, and just like a good book, its new everytime I see it. The thing that appeals to me is, it is so much like real life – like a documentary with an invisible camera – that I found myself remembering real conversations I had experienced with more or less the same words.There is no hidden agenda in this movie. There will be no betrayals, melodrama, phony violence, or fancy choreography in sex scenes. It’s mostly conversation, as the to main characters, who meet on the train and decide to wander the city of Vienna from mid-afternoon until the following dawn.

There may be no explosions or superheroes, or even a plot – just a couple talking about love and relationships – yet it’s kept audiences enthralled for two decades.

Before Sunrise plays with a deceptively simple concept, masking their depth and grandness of design. What could be more straightforward than placing two attractive, intelligent people together in two gorgeous cultural landmarks, and letting them, to borrow from Hamlet, use their words, words, words to seduce both the audience and each other? And yet, behind this thin façade are edgy and wise films that I continue to find, a dozen or more viewings down the road, profound in purpose and effect.

The story is simple. They meet, they decide to talk. Slowly, She drops the veneer; he eases up on the cynicism. Richard Linklater uses the city as a blank page for two strangers to write on. A store specializing in old records (ah, vinyl) makes a provocative first stop. Standing in the forced intimacy of a listening room, they feel too awkward to act on their attraction. So much for cool. There is a kiss on the Ferris wheel, but they don’t have cash for the chic attractions. For them, it’s a bar, a dance club, a bottle of wine in the park, a walk by the Danube. Cinematographer Lee Daniel lights their travels with subtle magic so the history of the city seeps in. Nobody mentions Freud, but the good doctor is there in the way the two probe each other’s psyches.


It is beautiful to see how the director seduces us with the conventions of a traditional love story, teasing out our expectations, only to undermine them time and again with cynicism and even despair.these films ask us to consider the very nature and purpose of our existence in a fragmentary, superficial and transient universe. Amid some of the most beautiful art and architecture that Europe has to offer, and often accompanied by a soundtrack of history’s most enduring composers , the two leads, Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy), search for meaning and permanence in a world that emphasizes disposability. The contrast of the past and its constant glories with the confusion and transience of the modern is surely not accidental. In the context of a world where we are only expected to be as happy as our latest acquisition, we share the experiences of the protagonists, who soak up the atmosphere of cultures that have been built over centuries.


“Before Sunrise” was a remarkable celebration of the fascination of good dialogue. But “Before Sunset” is better, perhaps because the characters are older and wiser, perhaps because they have more to lose (or win), and perhaps because Hawke and Delpy wrote the dialogue themselves.

But the movie is not a confessional, and the characters don’t rush into revelations. There is a patience at work, even a reticence, that reflects who they have become. They have responsibilities. They no longer have a quick instinctive trust. They are wary of revealing too much. They are grown-ups, although at least for this afternoon in Paris they are in touch with the open, spontaneous, hopeful kids they were nine years before.

Also going into the more cynical more pessimist, Before Sunset, I Really feel it is more mature of a story and a special reference to the first scene where Jesse sees Celine for the first time, in 9 years. The expression of in-credulousness shows just how amazing the two actors are. It’s hard to believe they are are acting and not really Jesse and Celine. As they proceed with the conversation and  ‘catching up’ as we call it, we realise time has turned them into more pessimist, more cynical shades if themselves. Though, the final 25 minutes of conversation that winds up Before Sunset are the most deeply affecting moments of the two films. Both characters face up to their life’s failures, and seem on the brink of falling into a desperate cynicism. Life has come up so far short of the vaulted expectations that the night in Vienna bred in them. However, rather than the disappointment dissolving into a series of recriminations or a spiral of mutual regret, the film takes a miraculous healing turn at the end, and the characters rise above their ruefulness, and use it as a springboard into hope, guarded as it must remain given all that continues to separate them, including geography and pre-existing relationships


Linklater’s two films move us towards a new understanding of the genre of romantic films. While conventional romances spend almost all of their energy convincing the audience that, consequences be damned, this particular couple is going to hook up, and it is going to be worth all of our emotional commitment because if they don’t hook up, we’ll, like, die or something. These films get you thinking about the real nuts and bolts of relationship-building, and more importantly ask us to confront the consequences of attempting to build relationships in the real world of those illusory and harmful myths that we perpetuate in our romantic fictions.

And then comes Before Midnight. 9 Years later. And while it would be easy to build a romanticized third chapter to serve as the climax for the previous two, but Linklater, Delpy and Hawke choose instead to look at Jesse and Celine as a mature couple. The film offers an appropriate and natural view on the experience of a consummated love. The mutual idealisation of the past has been replaced by comfort in each other’s presence — and also with an underlying, perfectly understandable irritation. That’s where Richard Linklater’s genius lies, in building a story so real, so relate-able, that it build its own importance. Just by being real.

It’s not even the film-making or the location or the direction, Its the sheer beauty of justifying each and every emotion and each and every word matters. These three movies, are a work of art because they exercise the art of just letting things be, and taking conversation as the building blocks to any relationship. I mean sure, we can romanticise things and build a fairy tale too, where the damsel is in distress and the prince goes through 5 hoops to rescue her, but isn’t the art of actually conversing, listening, equally difficult, equally important, equally or even more necessary? I mean what if the prince never could manage to hold a conversation and was just good at slaying monsters?






Published by darshitajain

artist | poet | journalist | human

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: