The Before… films make you want to live in Europe
We first meet Celine and Jesse in their 20’s in Before Sunrise (95), revisit their reunion in Before Sunset, by which time both are in their 30’s (04), and presumably see them at the twilight of their existence on the big screen, when they are just about in their 40’s with Before Midnight (13)
Wonderfully for this film franchise, these age ranges are almost entirely consistent with the ages of the actors portraying both Celine and Jesse. (Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke, respectively)
The meticulous nature of this series (VERY evident in the script) in all aspects, from the witty and thoughtful but extremely natural dialogue, to factual consistency across the years, as well as even Celine and Jesse’s transformations as characters (important to remember that Delpy and Hawke are co-writers for all three films, for “Before Sunrise” they just weren’t credited) means that A) the people working on this project seem all the more impressive, and B) these three films are one of the most realistically touching I’ve seen ever.
And I know it’s rather uncommon to meet a girl on a train to Vienna, strike up a conversation, coincidentally fall in love and spend the night with her, let alone then lose contact with her for 9 years, write a book about it leading to a long-awaited rendezvous and finally get married with her. Right, I admit, all this is very circumstantial. But what I praise most about the Before… films is not the plotline. It’s the fact that Celine and Jesse are, as far as my shrouded eyes are concerned, goddamn real people. I assure you you’ll see it the way I do after a listen in to their thought-provoking exchanges.
But we haven’t even got to the best bit yet. The dialogue itself in general is usually substantially deep and purposeful. (With excessive but lovably ample uses of the word bullshit) They hit the sweet spot on being intellectually engaging yet down to earth enough that the pair don’t come off as pretentious elitist pricks. One minute the two could be having a mock telephone conversation in a diner, and another and they’re describing the “pleasure obsessed, porn-addled materialists” that modern humans are.
Usually this sort of “deep” film has some sort of philosophy behind it, on a fundamental level one could see it as the cliche “moral of the story”. What struck me the most about these films are that they feel like an amalgamation of different ideals and beliefs. It didn’t come across as the director force feeding you his motto for life, rather the contrary. Maybe perhaps due to the several contributors to the screenplay but regardless, it seems to say to you “think of different things, whatever they may be however the fuck you want”, or at the very least offer the viewer an arsenal of interpretative options.
I could potentially analyse this, and go into depth with examples of why I feel this way, but that would only diminish the awe and influence your reading of them. Plus it wouldn’t do the film the slightest justice it deserves.
If all of this doesn’t matter to you, all of the Before… films are profoundly romantic. I had myself biting my fist from giddiness many times during my viewings. So at the very least you should at least have one reason to watch these movies that apply to you!