These three films are nothing short of my favourite.
A young man and woman meet on a train in Europe, and wind up spending one evening together in Vienna. Unfortunately, both know that this will probably be their only night together.
The idea of meeting the love of your life on a train to Vienna, bonding over the arguing German couple seems too unrealistic even for films. After this initial cliche, everything else feels real and that’s the true beauty of this trilogy. As we watch Jesse and Celine fall in love, we do too. You have to completely watch the film to really watch it. The cinematography is sheer brilliance, not to mention stolen glances from Jesse and Celine. The other trademark of this trilogy is the dialogue. Before Sunrise is Jesse and Celine walking along the roads of Vienna discussing philosophy, love and life. The film ends with a heavy presence on ones heart, wondering if they will ever meet again.
Nine years after Jesse and Celine first met, they encounter each other again on the French leg of Jesse’s book tour.
Lost love is the theme here, but not typical lost love though perhaps a lot of people do feel it. Jesse has now written a book, of which Celine is the muse. Now both thirty somethings, Jesse is married and has a son, Celine has had boyfriends. Like the first, it is Jesse and Celine catching up on the streets of Paris. Only this time it wasn’t a chance meet, Celine went along to a book signing of Jesse’s at none other than the famous Shakespeare and Co. This is my favourite of the three, perhaps because they have grown as people but still feel an impossible longing for each other. The ending is ambiguous again, we don’t know if they’ll ever meet again.
We meet Jesse and Celine nine years on in Greece. Almost two decades have passed since their first meeting on that train bound for Vienna.
20 years after their initial meeting, Jesse and Celine are finally together and even have twin girls. Unlike the first two, the first half of the film involves other characters so it isn’t 100 minutes wholly of their conversation. I didn’t think I would like that but that was quite refreshing, I suppose it outwardly shows real life invading. As we follow the two characters in Greece (again beautiful shots) we learn of the conflict, Jesse regrets not being there for his son and proposes moving back to the States. At the same time Celine has been offered her dream job. The climax is a destructive argument, Celine feels she is being suffocated in a marriage where she has to share Jesse with his ex wife/son and his writing career. Jesse feels she’s being crazy, much to my surprise it became quite political. Celine bought up the female struggle and the subliminal patriachy in all aspects of life. Watching this my heart sank, I couldn’t bear to see them break up. The talents of Linklater, Deply and Hawke ensured this wasn’t the ending, instead they ended as many marriages probably do, with resolution and hopes it’ll get better.
It’s hard to simplify the beauty of these films, of course I can say the acting, the dialogue and cinematography. But to simplify is relieving Richard Linklater of his talent. My favourite thing is how real everything is portrayed. First loves, lost loves and hardships in marriage are all universal themes coupled with brilliant acting and writing we have a set of films which will echo into the rest of our lives.