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..