In 1995 Richard Linklater introduced us to Jesse, an American, (Ethan Hawke) & Celine, a French woman (Julie Delpy) who meet as strangers on a train in the film Before Sunrise. They connect with intense chemistry and conversation. They have a handful of hours to kill in Vienna and take a risk spending the time together before they have to go their separate ways.
I reacted to this film immediately and found the quick-shot conversation enviable and fascinating. Their youth and arrogance was evident and not apologized for. Although the film wasn’t a bona fide hit, it did find a large cult following.
Nine years later, in 2004, Linklater made Before Sunset. I liked this film even more than the first. At this point the characters have been through disappointments and have found relationships. They meet again when Celine seeks out author Jesse when he’s in Paris for a book signing. It takes them only moments to re-connect. They admit to each other their mutual disappointments with love and with each other for not keeping in touch. The pain and growth of the characters is noticeably palatable and the comfort of the actors with each other is intoxicating.
At the end of this month, another nine years later comes another installment in the story, Before Midnight. Jesse & Celine have known each other for almost twenty years. They are together in Greece and the previews reveal there are, for the first time, children included in the story.
Growing at the same pace as the actors playing Celine and Jesse may be part of the connection that I feel to their story. The films are created in a way that makes the viewer feel as if they are voyeurs in private conversations; from the mundane to the sensual. These are slow, graceful films and aren’t to everyone’s taste, but they are for me a kind of mirror benchmark of phases of adult life.