From Rebecca: Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight

Yesterday I watched the third in a series of films that started eighteen years ago.

In 1995 a film came out called Before Sunrise, written by Richard Linklater and Kim Krizan. It starred Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy as two people in their early 20s who meet on a train to Vienna and begin talking. Over the course of that day, evening, and overnight the two characters, Jesse and Celine, talk about life, what they want to do, how they view the world, and get to know each other as they wander through Vienna. Jesse has to leave early in the morning, so that is all the time they have. It was a film of young love in Europe.

Some years after the film came out, the two stars and one of the writers, Richard Linklater, started talking about writing a follow-up film with the two characters. The three artists wrote scenes, emailed each other, and got together to slowly produce the next chapter for Jesse and Celine.

That film, called Before Sunset, came out in 2004. Set in Paris, again starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, the story caught up to the characters nine years later. A little older and a little less innocent, they have each had other relationships and some success in their careers. Jesse needs to get on a plane that evening, so they only have the afternoon together. So they spend it talking as they walk through streets, sit at a cafe, take a boat ride, and ride in a hired car. I like the choice they made in just this film to be running in real-time; the camera seems to be following them with no breaks. I know that they shot it over several days, instead of one long take, but the film has the feeling of a long conversation in an afternoon in Paris.

After that film, some time passed and then the three writers (Linklater, Delpy and Hawke) began to work on a third one.

Before Midnight came out last year, in 2013, and again picked up our couple nine years later. In a relationship with each other, 41 years old, they are on vacation in Greece. They have two daughters now, and when they are given a chance to spend time in a hotel room without the children, they end up spending that time examining their relationship, disappointments, and responsibilities. Should they stay together, should they part?

I don’t remember which film I heard of first, but the first two have been on my to-watch list for years. When the third one came out, I bumped them closer to the top. I watched all three films, with some time in between each one, for the first time within the last year. I enjoyed them all very much. After so much manufactured romance from Hollywood (as much as I enjoy romantic comedies), it was a refreshing change to watch romance set in the real world.

Each film finds this woman and man at different times of their lives – in their 20s, 30s, and 40s – and each age they need something different from their encounters. Seeing the actors mature and change with the characters adds to the experience. They don’t fall head over heels in love and live happily ever after. They connect to each other, connect to each other again, and then have a grown up relationship that includes hope, disappointments, dishes, an ex-wife, being tired, helping with the children, sex, and commitment.

And talking. In each film, there is a lot of sharing of ideas, philosophy, life views, dreams, and intentions. In the third film, there is a wonderful scene where a group of people are eating a meal together. They talk about men and woman, romance, relationships, and the changes in the world as it relates to couples (the young couple at the table stay in their long distance relationship with the use of Skype). The people at the meal represent all stages of love and ages; a young couple, an old married couple, a widow. Their conversation is lively and interesting.

I also liked the three locations used in the films; Vienna, Paris, and Greece. They were filmed on location, so we see architecture, landscapes, cafes, rivers, and art. Each place added to the mood and feeling of the films.

Will there be a fourth film? Time will tell. Nine years later would be 2022. I intend to see it, if that film is made.

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