Sequential Cinema: ‘Before Sunrise’ (1995)

Sequential Cinema is a look at film series throughout cinema history from blockbuster franchise to smaller and international fare.

Love itself is a blissful moment in time sometimes coming out of nowhere. It might take years, decades or even simple traveling abound to find it. Young love, in particular, is wondrous. They’re still naïve to the notion and the moment can be fleeting or stick forever in boundless nostalgia. Growing from that is a journey in itself with a destination of matrimony or breaking apart.

The Before Trilogy is a journey of romance through 18 years of Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine’s (Julie Delpy) lives. The series began in 1995 with the release of Before Sunrise. Linklater wrote the script based on his own meeting of a woman in Philadelphia back in the late ’80s. He collaborated with Kim Krizan to flesh out the characters and offer a new location. Together, they gave the characters’ life rather than keep things vague as intended.

Thus, the Before Trilogy came to fruition and so does this focus on it in a three-part look at the film. For me, Before Sunrise was the kind of film I had not seen before when first exposed to it. It was when I was around 11 on a local UPN station in Southeast Los Angeles and I came across it right at the beginning. This is how I watched most movies as a kid outside of renting them or having them in the house.

“I think I can really fall in love when I know everything about someone-the way he’s going to part his hair, which shirt he’s going to wear that day, knowing the exact story he’d tell in a given situation. I’m sure that’s when I know I’m really in love.”

– Celine (Julie Delpy)

As the couple goes from strangers to lovers, it never once feels like a forced relationship. They both carry themselves quite well with an air of respect even if they may not see eye to eye on topics. The chemistry unravels to become more compelling in the listening booth scene.

The awkwardness and the tension linger as both of them waiting to make the right move or even if they should. Even better, us watching it want it to happen and we yearn for the moment as well to ease the tension of the scene. Yet, it’s a sweet moment in time we can relate to with wanting the moment to happen, but also not wanting to ruin it. Luckily, those waiting for them to lock lips get that moment after a visit to the cemetery. This results in them holding and kissing in a beautiful moment of bliss.

The two memorable moments in the film does come from two interesting encounters. The first moment is with a palm reader who approaches Celine.

“You need to resign yourself to the awkwardness of life.  Only if you find peace within yourself will you find true connection with others”

– Palm Reader (Erni Mangold)

Celine understands exactly what she means, even if Jesse doesn’t buy into it that much. The palm reader leaves calling them “stardust” for the universe came from stardust. It’s a beautiful sentiment the two became attracted as two specks in the universe.

Daydream delusion
Limousine Eyelash
Oh, baby with your pretty face
Drop a tear in my wineglass
Look at those big eyes
See what you mean to me
Sweet cakes and milkshakes
I am a delusion angel
I am a fantasy parade
I want you to know what I think
Don’t want you to guess anymore
You have no idea where I came from
We have no idea where we’re going
Lodged in life
Like two branches in a river
Flowing downstream
Caught in the current
I’ll carry you. You’ll carry me
That’s how it could be
Don’t you know me?
Don’t you know me by now?

“Delusional Angel” written for the film by David Jewell, performed by Dominik Castell

These lines bear the significance of their connection. This is their story so far and the story that has yet to be. They want to know and see one another; to know of each other’s wants and needs. In a span of an afternoon and an ongoing evening, they are no longer strangers, nor will they be as time passes.

Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) put a spin on telephone.
Source: Columbia Pictures

Jesse and Celine’s lives are in flux. Jesse reveals to Celine his relationship ended in Madrid before coming to Vienna. This reveal happens in a fake phone call between the two (with their hands as there were no bananas used). Their bond is so strong at this point that it doesn’t damper their relationship. Celine reveals that even before he asked, she was ready to follow him and join him off the train.

Next week, we go forward nine years in the future to find out if their six month meeting plan came fruition or if it was a fluke. However, this time around, they have Before Sunset. Till the next sequence.


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