Before Sunrise (1995)


Arguably America’s finest part-trilogy of romance, “Before Sunrise” was written and directed by self-taught director Richard Linklater in 1995. The film became such a hit amongst critics and avid movie-goers that Linklater was forced into creating a trilogy based on the two famous characters, Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy). Supplying fans with a new wave of American young romance that they’ve craved as Linklater formed the holy trinity of romantic-drama, “Before Sunrise”, “Before Sunset”, and “Before Midnight”.

Unlike most of the motion pictures we’ve analyzed throughout this series, “Before Sunrise” was not adapted from a previously written novel or short story. However, Linklater was inspired to create this film because of his own personal experiences of adolescent love.

Linklater and his two leads (Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy) work ingeniously together to create a “real-life” ambience.

Just after twenty-nine year old Linklater had finished shooting his second film “Slacker” in New York, he was on his way home to Austin, Texas, when he stopped over in Philadelphia for one night to visit his sister. That one evening in the fall of 1989, “Linklater met Lehrhaupt”, Amy Lehrhaupt, who “was several years younger, about 20”. Linklater said in an interview that they spent the entire evening together, “from midnight until six in the morning,” “walking around, flirting, doing things you would never do now”. Just like the narrative of the film Richard Linklater and Amy Lehrhaupt spent all night talking “about art, science, film, the gamut.”.

The plot of the movie doesn’t actually drift too far away Linklater’s truth and his motion picture is in fact considered a very minimalistic narrative, “there will be no betrayals, melodrama, phony violence, or fancy choreography in sex scenes. It’s mostly conversation, as they wander the city of Vienna from mid-afternoon until the following dawn”. The film solely focuses on Jesse and Celine walking and talking as they share ideals of life, love and their similar passions for the arts; exactly like what Linklater revealed happen to him and Amy on that fateful evening in Philadelphia.

One of the main points to highlight is how natural and simplistic it all seems on screen. Both Linklater and his two leads shine in this premise, as the harmony between the two actors seems almost as though its happening in real life. It’s filmed and produced in such a way that its as if Linklater is spying on a couple experiencing this for real. We are there in the thick of it, experiencing every little detail of their blossoming relationship together. We are aware of everything, even to the point of listening in on the not so “important” dialogue that most films would shy away from. This is a big reason why the film feels so fresh and original. Roger Ebert puts it this way, “what do they talk about? Nothing spectacular. Parents, death, former boyfriends and girlfriends, music, and the problem with reincarnation when there are more people alive now than in all previous times put together”. We know from this that Linklater hasn’t attempted to be overly indulgent with his dialogue, and perhaps proves that keeping things minimalistic is a much more powerful way to express real life dialogue between two characters falling in love. After all, this is based on his true story.

Nonetheless, towards the end of the film Linklater does decide to deviate the narrative away from his real life experiences and add some element of fiction to the story in order to give his film perhaps more room for continuity. Had he not done this, there may not have been any future films in the series. “Before Sunset” and “Before Midnight” would not have taken place because “unlike Jesse and Céline, who agree to reconvene in six months, the real-life young lovers exchanged numbers and tried to keep in touch while they were away. They called each other a few times, but it was “that long distance thing” that did them in. “It sort of did the fizzle,” he says”. As a result, this here ends the real-life adaptation for Jesse and Celine, and very cleverly begins an endless chasm of possibilities to move on from, which Linklater takes full advantage of.