Oct 13, 2008

Before Sunset


I wanted to publish this post on the 10th itself, when I felt soooo romantic. This movie is set in the most romantic city of the world, Paris.. and I wished I knew French, to fully understand all the dialogue. May be I will learn it in the future and watch the movie umpteenth time... ;)

Please note: A few spoilers about this move and its prequel, 'Before Sunrise' will be found in this review. Both the movies are availabe in youtube.. Before sunrise - in 10 parts. Before sunset is available in 8 parts. I strongly recommend the romantic lovers among you to watch these 2 movie. Definitely worth 3 hours of your life.

Before Sunrise and Before Sunset are two of my all-time favorite movies and certainly the most favorite pair in the ‘Sequel’ category. In this post, I focus mainly on ‘Before Sunset’ and describe what a great sequel it is – not only in terms of the story or other technical aspects but in the aspects that make it an excellent pair with its prequel.

The way the first part ended was rather ambiguous (open-ended). As the male protagonist Jesse (Ethan Hawke) reveals in the sequel, it is totally left to the reader to imagine what really happened after the climax. A romantic would think that the he and Celine (Julie Delpy, in an awe-inspiring performance), the girl he met and spent a day in Vienna, met again and a cynic would think they didn’t. Now, the time for the imagination is over and the viewer is going to know the answer, but it wouldn’t come soon. So, during the course of the movie, the viewer has to read between the lines and try to guess the answer correctly. Thus, from being a romantic or cynic, the viewer has to change to being an observer or a wild-guesser.

In the book-meeting scene, he talks of the idea for his next story, where he remembers his ex-girlfriend when his daughter is dancing to the tunes of a song he listened with his ex-girlfriend. This was indicative of the director giving us clues about his life. His first book was based on his real-life incident of meeting his ex-girlfriend; moreover, the very first dialogue in the movie begins with one of the journalists asking the writer if the story is autobiographic, to which he answers that every writer’s work is inspired from his/her life experiences, and being the writer of a romantic story, his too is real. These two events suggest us that he probably has an offspring, probably a daughter and that he still thinks often about his ex-girlfriend. He further says that he wanted to be a great lover, an adventurer and an explorer of the world; but instead he was depressed despite having a great job and a beautiful wife.

When Celine comes to meet him at the bookstore, we see that he is quite surprised seeing her, and within minutes of their conversation it is apparent that they couldn’t meet again as they planned, in Vienna. Now, the next question arises about their individual lives. Her bare fingers reveal that she is single, but his situation is left to guess. When asked how long it took to write the novel, he says 3-4 years, which is the first major clue given by the director that it has indeed been at least 4 years since their earlier meeting. He further remarks that his life nosedived after Dec 16, 1995, when he was waiting for her in Vienna in vain and his life turned miserable. Though he says that he only joked, one can sense that the director is giving hints about his troubled marriage.

Their conversation is quite different from the one they had during their first meet. While much of it was about what youngsters would be thinking and talking about, such as, partners, childhood memories, and career goals, now their conversation revolves around more serious and global issues such as global warming, politics of the modern world, and environmental pollution. This difference also suggests of their increased maturity over the years, hinting us that they have got quite older and wiser.

Unlike in the first movie where there was quite a bit of physical interaction between them after the first few hours, such as holding hands together and kissing, we don’t see any such thing here, despite them meeting after a few years. This also suggests of some barrier between them, which we don’t know is because of the awkwardness of the situation or due to something else. We get the answer a little later.

While talking at the café, he talks of his problems getting deeper and deeper, but when she asks him what his problems are, he sighs and says he doesn’t have any problems and that, at that moment, he is very happy being there. From the conversations, it becomes clear that both have been thinking about each other and we also get the feeling that they have indeed been searching the other within their limits. Then, when he reveals the exact time that passed between the meetings, it is quite shocking. Now, the viewer is made to guess about what would have happened in each of their life in that period, and most importantly, if both of them are still single and available for each other.

Later when they talk about the details of their past meet, Celine behaves as if she has forgotten much of the way they spent their first day together in Vienna. It comes as a shock to him, because he says that he remembers that night much more than he remembers his entire living years. Considering that, and the fact that it was only he who showed up at Vienna for the elusive reunion, it arises a doubt about whether she cherishes their first meet as much as he does. When he asks her if it was a bitter experience and hence she wanted to forget it, she says no. As the conversation evolves, and when she is shown to remember even their zodiacs after all these years, it slowly becomes apparent that he really meant something to her.

During all this time, it is clear that we are observing every conversation between them and every place there go. By this, I mean that the editing has been such that we witness everything they do. Thus, there is no scope to guess whether or not they have talked about their lives in the intermittant time. But I felt that there is a nice catch. Being an author of a bestselling author, it is most probable that his short biography is there at the back-cover of his book, making her aware of his marital and social status (which is usually briefly mentioned in the biography). But he has no clue about her life, neither are we aware of her feelings about what she has learnt about him. The director makes us wait for the story to unfold.

When she eventually asks him about his family, we know about his marital status and also that she is aware of that. When she later reveals that she is not yet married and that she is unable to maintain a long-term relationship with anyone because of his memories, we understand how strongly she has been in love with him, after spending just a few hours with him the first time around. The difference between the release of the two movies is actually the same what director has decided to use as the break. I think it is a smart ploy, because both Jesse and Celine have aged quite considerably and the director needed to just show their older faces to make us realize that it is indeed a long time since the prequel.

The reason for me mentioning their first interaction which is shown in just a few frames at the beginning of the movie is that, someone who watches this movie without having watched its prequel will definitely be tempted to find out how their first meet would have been. That doesn’t mean that it is a prerequisite to have watched Before Sunrise for watching this movie. Before Sunset is a great movie by itself, perhaps better in the lead roles’ performances than the prequel, especially during the emotional outburst shown beautifully in a long shot during their limo journey. There, each of them loves to console the emotionally charged other by trying to touch their hair, but they restrain doing so, probably because of the realization that his marital status prevents such a contact.It is such a wonderful scene, and is easily the best in the movie.


The director decides to end Before Sunset too open-ended, with a clever dialog in which Celine tells Jesse that he is going to miss the plane, for which he replies “I know”. The movie ends right after that, and the director re-invokes the romantic vs cynic argument in us. I concluded that Jesse would deliberately miss the flight to stay with her for awhile before divorcing his wife, thus ending the unhappy marriage and unite with Celine. I loved both the movies because of the terrific conversations the pair had in both the versions, around which they gradually share their life and express their love. In short, I would say that Before Sunset is a perfect sequel to Before Sunrise in every sense. Listen to a beautiful waltz that Celine wrote for Jesse..

17 comments:

mitr_bayarea said...

Raju-

A great write up and a mushy one too. Will watch both the movies soon.

Rohini said...

Raju.. That was a vry cute scene.. :) I want to watch both the movies soon..

Raju said...

Mitr, thanks.. Yeah, I feel very senti whenever I watch this movie. This analysis is the result of a lot of deep thinking process.. :) Yeah, pl do let me know what you think of the movies.
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Rohini, I am glad you liked it. I am very happy to have found the full movies in youtube - must watch movies. Pl let me know your opinion and difference in the contents of the movies after watching.

Anonymous said...

You did a neat job of reviewing it SO nicely!

Manish.

matrix said...

Do you think that Jesse's primary problem with his wife is that she's not Celene? and Celene's problem with any other man that he's not Jesse? their constant comparisons of their ex with their current partner...Do you think that they are ignoring the fact that they are in real world and not in an ideal world?

matrix said...

I take it that Jesse did not miss the flight. It would be unrealistic if he leaves his wife and kid for a gal whom he knew only a day. Therefore the argument should be love vs. realism.

Nevertheless it's a decent movie...and strongly recommended for those you who are ok with subtle romanticism.

Raju said...

Manish, welcome here, and thanks so much.. :)
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Matrix, excellent question.. Glad that you thought so much about the movie and asked the qn.
There are a few scenes in the movie which talk about the unhappy relationships that Jesse and Celine have had. Let us see them one by one.
First Jesse: True he has liked Celine a lot; even on his wedding day, he thought he saw her. He had waited for sometime after his previous Vienna visit, but had decided to move on. He indeed found somebody with whom he went the whole nine yards of courtship, love, engagement and marriage. Though he doesnt talk of his love life pre-marriage, his post-marriage life has been bad. This has prompted him to write the book in search of Celine. At the time of writing the book, he has no clue about whether she has had the same feelings about him, and whether or not she is married. A pessimist would say that, the very fact that she didnt come to meet him on December 16, would mean that she hasnt paid that much importance to their first meeting. Still, Jesse writes the book with the hope that it would help them meet again. All he says to her for his reason for writing is, to ask her why the f*** she wasnt there in Vienna on Dec 16. All these, plus the intrinsically soft nature of Jesse, suggest that he wouldnt have messed up his marital relationship. Just somehow it turned sour, which I think, is mostly due to his partner. Though some comparisons in the mind about the ex's are inevitable, people move on, rite?
Now, Celine: She tells that she has showered love on her partners who thank her for that, but dont propose to her. She says she would have said no, but at least would have been happy at their proposal. And, knowing about her personality, she also wouldnt have just been comparing all of them with Jesse. Thinking practically, comparing with someone is most likely to happen when that person is physically around or had a longtime relationship. So, one can see people comparing their spouse with some relatives, colleagues, friends, etc. Celine comparing everyone with Jesse would be impractical, since she knows that she has interacted with him for just one day and that they are most likely never to meet each other.
These are my two cents on their problems with their partners.
About the open-ended climax, well, what I wrote was my wish. An unhappy marriage, a child's presence or not, is just not worth having just for the sake of the child - this is by and large the Western attitude, and I would think Jesse would be abide by that. Now, for the 'knowing for one day' part, well, they knew each other for one day the first time, and they have again spent a day this time. Though the topics have changed, their whole outlook, perspectives, and personalities havent. This makes them re-connect again, and I believe, considering their intrinsic qualities, they would make a wonderful pair. U can call me naively optimistic for that, but I dont mind being one, for this beautiful pair.. ;)
Subtle romance-a? Well, I have never seen romance being shown in a better way than this in any other movie, Titanic, Notebook, Love story and even Wall-E included.. ;)

BBK said...

I would want Jesse to be from a Thevar family from down south in Tamil Nadu..so that he can have more than one wife..(Aasaikki oruthi and aasthikku oruthi)...

Raju said...

BBK, is it a problem with only the Thevar community? I think there are other castes too which turn a blind eye towards the polygamy of influential people.

Jokes apart, the essence of the movie goes beyond polygamy or adultery. It is more to do with love and man's quest for it.

BBK said...

Yup..I agree..Its a very very nice movie..In fact its on the best top 10 movies in my list...
BTW I have been reading your blogs..It is very good..WTG dude...

One question: When u post a blog..in anyway will i be able to get an alert...???

Raju said...

BBK, Thanks.. :)

In my left tab, all the way at the bottom there is a small box below 'Newsletter' where you can enter ur e-mail. It is like subscribing to my blog. As soon as I write a new post, you will get an e-mail notification.

BBK said...

Thanks:)

FRAME~CATCHER said...

This move is right up there with Titantic if not better. I also have to put Ghost in the mix but when it comes to the Notebook i would leave it out of the conversation, not to say the Notebook was a bad movie because it was a great love story. Before Sunrise/set movies are classic films and i could see people in 25 years from now saying wow what a great classic!!! It just that good.

FRAME~CATCHER said...

For those people who dont want to see a part 3 made, i question if you watched both films, or if you really paid close to the movies. I guess i could see somone loving them so much, they cant bear to see them mess up this great love story, but as for me, bring on the 3rd installment!!! More people out there need to know about this story and what wonderful movies they are, so that they might realize one of the absolute best, most heartfelt films ever made!!! For the people who say that its not realistic that they stay together are kidding themselfs, it clearly shows that they both subconciously missed each other dearly the nine years they were apart. He sent a meassege in a bottle and it found its mark!!

FRAME~CATCHER said...

The book being his meassege in the bottle.

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