Classic Film | Issue 7
Before Sunrise (1995)
From director Richard Linklater comes a perceptive and poignant film about two young twenty-somethings who meet as strangers on a train, sense a connection, and decide to take a gamble on each other. But the clock is ticking. Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) have just 14 hours in Vienna to get to know all there is to know about each other before both must go their separate ways. And they do make sure that every minute counts, talking intimately about everything and nothing Ö before sunrise.
With no set plans but to make the most of their limited time together, the places that they visit, the people they encounter, and their ongoing whimsical conversations with each other provide a structure to the narrative. The urgency of the situation forces a sharing of each otherís histories and of their hopes for the future. Jesse is more cynical than the free-spirited Celine. We learn that he is still nursing a broken heart and a bruised ego. Yet he strongly feels that Celine can benefit from what he has to offer her. In return, she responds to his directness with interest. While it takes a little while for them to relax into their roles, the chemistry between Hawke and Delpy is overt and mesmerising, which makes up for the times when their dialogue seems contrived and unnatural. Linklaterís camera, however, is gentle and unobtrusive and privileges the audience with intimate first-hand knowledge of the developing romance. But what is to become of them when itís time to say goodbye? Will they keep their plans to meet again?
Before Sunrise is a paean to young love, when anything feels possible and finding a soulmate seems very probable. But itís not just for the romantics out there. Itís a travellersí tale, with after-hours Vienna providing an intriguing and picturesque setting. It also superbly captures a particular stage in life when not a lot really matters and unexpected encounters and paths not yet taken can actually direct you to somewhere or indeed to someone. This is a delightful film with two exceptionally charismatic leads.
- Jane Ross