Before Sunrise: An Appreciation of the Ethan Hawke Julie Delpy Film
'Isn't everything we do in life a way to be loved a little more? '
For me, Before Sunrise is one of those films that transcends what it actually is; it came at a time in my life where it spoke directly to me, to my views on life, my tastes, my ideals. It has value to me beyond being just a film. That being said, it is a film that anyone should enjoy, and for my money one of the best romance films (if a little off-beat!) that you will ever see. The film captures the purest sort of connection between two people, who manage for a short time to screen out the real world and just open themselves to each other. Before you get too worried, it's far from being a sickly-sweet 'boy meets girl' story! it's a snapshot of a moment in time that we, the viewer, are priviliged to witness. As the film asks:-
'Can the greatest romance of your life last only one night?'
P.S I talk about the film purely in its own context, so do not mention the 2 sequels, or what we learn in them about the events here.
All images and film quotes are copyright of their respective owners and distributors (Castle Rock Entertainment, Warner Independent Cinema, Richard Linklater/Kim Krizan) and are used to provide critical commentary on the film, and so are for 'fair use'.
Richard Linklater on the set of 'Before Sunrise'
You can rent Before Sunrise too, you know!
Pre-Production and Inspiration..
"In life, there are a lot of stories and characters, but there isn't a lot of plot'
The idea for what became Before Sunrise stretches back to an event that happened to writer-director Richard Linklater; while in a toy store in Philadelphia, he started talking to a woman he met, they hit it off, then ended up walking around Philadelphia all night, just talking. This inspired Linklater to write the first draft of the screenplay.
It began life as a vague story, the two characters and the city deliberately left vague; this didn't feel right, and a later incarnation saw the setting changed to San Antonio and the male character a film buff spouting film dialogue. Again, Linklater wasn't happy, and he realized the missing element was the 'voice' of the female character; he chose Kim Krizan, with whom he had previously worked, as his co-writer. With both characters now having a voice, Linklater and Krizan wrote the reworked screenplay in just 11 days; the focus now became wholly the relationship between the two leads, and was now set in a foreign country, to put them in a very defined bubble out of their normal lives.
The film now had a script, but needed a location and, more importantly, two young actors capable of being on screen the entire time able to carry the movie.
Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy Publicity Shot
Incredibly, despite the amazingly naturalistic way the film feels, and the way the actors relate to each other, the film was scripted down to the word; no ad-libs or improvisation was allowed, as the budget was so tight they could not afford to re-shoot
People and Places....
Richard Linklater spent 9 months casting for his leads, struggling to find either the right qualities, or connection between, the different actors and actresses. When Ethan Hawke was initially approached, he had been making waves on stage and was a 'hot' prospect; he went to see Linklater thinking he had the part, only to find it was an audition call! Somewhat surprised (he had several other offers already, no audition required) he auditioned anyway, as he thought Richard Linklater a good director. Linklater eventually offered him the part, but only after wrestling for a time with a concern that Hawke was too young. He had his Jesse...
Julie Delpy proved slightly easier casting, as Celine, than Jesse. She was already an experienced film actress, French but fluent in English, and someone that shone at audition when doing a reading with Ethan Hawke. Linklater liked her personality and enthusiasm, and the rapport with her co-star sealed the role for her.
The final role to cast was that of location. Although it had been decided to set the film in a foreign country, Linklater had not decided where; when attending a film festival in Berlin, he liked the city and thought of setting it there, but met with little enthusiasm; however when he moved on to a similar event in Vienna, he not only found support for his idea, but people wishing to actively support the project. Vienna it was to be.
The three casting choices have all proven to be perfect; Vienna is the third star of the film without question, and I find it has a more 'feminine' character than Berlin (very masculine), which suits the film tone perfectly.
Buy some Audio Sunrise...
Although uncredited, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy contributed a lot of the dialogue for their characters. Julie Delpy has expressed her anger publicly at not being acknowledged for their contribution.
Before Sunrise DVD Spotlight....
Before Sunrise is that rare breed of movie, one that makes you think, one that makes you listen, one that makes you feel. It is one of my all time favorite films, and deserving of a wider following. Undoubtedly a film deserving of a place in anyone's collection.
If you've never seen it, now is your chance. You won't regret it.
Can you Fall in Love in One Night?
A Boy, A Girl, and a Train....
'You should get off the train with me here in Vienna, and come check out the capital'
It must be said, the plot of Before Sunrise is slight in the extreme, but the characters, the dialogue, the locations are as rich as anything you will find anywhere. The film starts with two twenty-something strangers, French girl Celine and American Jesse, meeting on a train from Budapest to Paris; Jesse is going to Vienna, to fly back to the U.S, Celine is returning to her home city of Paris. They immediately hit it off, and enjoy an hour or two chatting, enjoying each other's company, until the train arrives at Vienna.
Jesse takes a chance and asks Celine if she will get off with him, saying he would probably regret it forever if he had never asked; Celine, after a little persuading, agrees and they both leave the train. Jesse, short of money, had always planned to walk around night-time Vienna killing time until his flight and Celine joins him in this.
The film then sees us, the viewer, essentially following Celine and Jesse around Vienna, as they walk and talk about love, life, the universe, and everything, opening up more and more of themselves to each other. We learn Jesse is broken-hearted, having flown to Madrid to see his girlfriend only for her to break up with him; Celine reveals heartache in the not too distant past.
As the night moves on, the romantic attraction between the two comes to the surface, and they make the most of their one night. The film leaves it open as to whether or not they had a sexual liaison, but I think yes. The film ends the next morning as the two say their farewells at Vienna train station, where they agree to meet, at that exact spot, 6 months later.
Its the perfect bitter-sweet ending to the perfect bitter-sweet romance.
Before Sunrise Trailer
The date of Celine and Jesse's one night in Vienna is revealed at the end as June 16th; this is the same day James Joyce used for Leopold Bloom, in 'Ulysses', to walk around Dublin for one day. Jesse's real name is also James, probably in tribute.
My Thoughts and Feelings...
In many ways, you feel like a voyeur watching Celine and Jesse; it is clearly such a special night in their life, and Linklater films in long, continuous tracking shots to ensure you are always 'following' them, you almost feel like turning away.
But you don't.
Because it is absolutely hypnotic watching two people, the baggage of their 'real' lives cast aside, just talk and share, about everything from the nature of love and Gods design, to a dog sunbathing. That one night in Vienna takes place almost in a bubble, cutting them off from the real world; Jesse is upset when he mentions about having to pick up his dog from a friend when he gets back, as the 'real world' is forcing its way back in.
We, the viewer, are also envious. Envious of that type of freedom, envious that we never got to do such a thing; we are living that dream through Jesse and Celine, and that is why the film has such a dedicated cult following.
Many themes run through the film - loving, dreaming,wishing, self-discovery, regret, longing,cynicism, and fulfillment to name a few. It is a thinking film, you engage with the characters as they talk, you are pulled into their conversations. The biggest theme I take away is optimism; when you are young, you can afford to be optimistic about everything, and we don't begrudge these characters that right, though we suspect their optimism will be dashed in years to come.
Some critics have made the point there is not much story to be had, yet the film is all about words, and what is story but words strung together? I actually feel Linklater is using a deceptively simple frame to hang a very complex picture on. You just need to see it.
If I Don't Ask...
When Celine and Jesse encounter the beggar/poet by the Danube, the poem he writes for them, 'Delusion Angel' was actually specially written for the film by the poet David Jewell; it was deliberately themed to be about how two people, though longing to, struggle to control an 'unknowable' world.
Our Nights Nearly Over...
The Soundtrack: Sounds of Sunrise....
Rather surprisingly, for a film where the music was carefully chosen, and where the music definitely gives certain scenes a 'feel', no soundtrack album was ever released. Fans made some home made efforts, cobbling together the tracks from other sources (all the tracks are listed in the closing credits)
In 2004, that was somewhat remedied when, to coincide with the release of the sequel Before Sunset, a joint soundtrack album was released, with material from both films. It is actually more a soundtrack from 'Before Sunrise', as 8 of the 11 tracks are from that film..
Je T'aime Tant - Julie Delpy
Living Life - Kathy McCarty
A Waltz For A Night - Julie Delpy
'Andante' (Sonata For Viola Da Gamba In G Major )- Ketil Haugsand
Dido And Encas Overture - The Scholars Baroque Ensemble
An Ocean Apart - Julie Delpy
Come Here - Kath Bloom
Varianto 25 (The Goldberg Variations In G Major) - Igor Kipnis
The Human Pump - Harald Waiglein
Dancing With Da Rat - Loud
Trapeze - Lou Christie
tracks 1,3 and 6 are the non-Sunrise tracks, if you want to listen to the songs in the running order of the film they follow this order - 5, 10, 7, 9, 11, 8, 4, 2.
For me, its a nice companion piece to the movie, and when I hear the music I can visualise the scenes; a nice blend of folk music and classical.
An album better late than never!
Want to recreate Jesse and Celine's walk around Vienna? well you can't! artistic licence was used to showcase some of Vienna's best landmarks, as the city of Vienna helped fund the film, so their actual walk around the city would have extended to 50 km, impossible in their time frame.
(People have tried!)
Read this Before Sunrise....
This book is essential reading if you love this film; it collects together the two screenplays from Before Sunrise and Before Sunset. The funny thing is, they don't read like screenplays. As so much of Before Sunrise is the beauty of the dialogue, of the characters, that is captured here on the page. You visualize the film as you read, which only adds another layer of enjoyment.
Its a fine read.
What Happened Next....?
Before Sunrise had its world premiere at the 1995 Sundance Film Festival, and was released in the United States on January 27, 1995. It was released by Sony/Columbia and had a relatively small release across the U.S, showing in, at the most, 474 cinemas. On a budget of $2.5 million, it made $5.5 million, so was a modest success for the backers. It was ranked the 195th film (in sales) of 1995 (top was Toy Story).
Although a modest success financially (yet still impressive on such a small budget), Before Sunrise was a definite critical success, Richard Linklater winning the Best Director award at the Berlin Film Festival among other honors. The film developed a small, but very loyal fan base which continues to this day, and critical opinion was overwhelmingly positive.The film has spawned two sequels, Before Sunset (2004) and the final part of the trilogy, Before Midnight (2013), both well received as well by critics and fans alike.
Richard Linklater continues to be a well respected leading light in independent cinema, as well as directing the occasional big studio film,and funds film training for students among other things; Ethan Hawke is, if not A-list Hollywood star, a very respectable B+, and has directed films as well as written and starred on stage; Julie Delpy, despite a reputation for being a little difficult to work with sometimes, has written and directed films, as well as continuing to act and to release albums, which she writes and sings.
We are how popular...?!
Opinion Time: My Favorite film in the 'Before' trilogy is...
Jesse and Celine share their first kiss on the giant Ferris Wheel, the Riesenrad, a popular tourist attraction in Vienna. It has also previously been featured in the movies The Third Man and The Living Daylights.
I would be remiss if I didn't say a little more about the third co-star in the film, the city of Vienna. As great the performances are, as fantastic the dialogue is, it is the city of Vienna at night that gives the film a fairytale quality, a sense that we are just slightly outside of the real world.
As I mentioned elsewhere, the City of Vienna partly funded the movie, and obviously wanted it to be showcased in the film, and it is. As well as all the major expected landmarks, the tourist zone of the city, the film also delves into several smaller corners of Vienna, making it an even more intriguing place. Little cafes, bars,railway bridges, and a small historic cemetery all rub shoulders with the imposing historic landmarks of the Imperial past.
Many fans of the film have made their own pilgrimage to Vienna, to visit the locations in the movie for themselves, something the tourist office there even cater for; there are also several unofficial tours that will shuttle you around the locations, as well as audio tours available on iphone and android apps..
Really lovely fan made tribute to Celine and Jesse - I Loved You First.....
Celine and Jesse, by Daniel Nyari
© 2013 FloridaDino