“If there is any kind of magic in this world, it must be in the attempt of understanding someone sharing something.” Celine, Before Sunrise
“Happiness is in the DOING, not in the getting what you want.”
Jesse, Before Sunset
Another snow day today. I spent part of it watching 2 movies. Or, more accurately, watching one movie spread over two parts & nine years.
Before Sunrise / Before Sunset
Before Sunrise (1995) and Before Sunset (2004) combine to equal less than one Lord of The Rings movie in length. (And that, my friends, is where the LOTR comparisons cease.) The Before movies seem so simple. There are only two characters; there are only two days. There are minutes-long shots of two people walking and talking. In explanation, it sounds like not much at all happens, but these movies are totally engrossing. Because they speak to what people really want out of life.
I haven’t seen these movies in years, and I remember why now.
Because they speak to what people really want out of life.
And that’s good, but that’s BIG.
And it can be heartbreaking.
Jesse and Celine are young twentysomethings who meet on a train to Vienna. She’s from Paris, and he’s on his way to catch a plane back to America. They decide to spend the day together, because they hit it off on the train, and because–why not? They spend the day exploring the city, and engaging in tete-a-tete that gets increasingly personal as the hours advance.
At one point they stand together in the listening room of a record store, and it’s so intimate I could squirm. Just watching them watch each other, you can feel the warmth spreading on their faces. You can feel the YOUNG LOVE. (!!!) It’s so beautiful to watch. Because they have nothing to lose, they are entirely themselves.
At the end of their day, Jesse and Celine vow to meet again in six months. Right there in the Vienna train station. This is pre-Facebook; they don’t have cell phones. As the film ends with a series of beautiful, empty shots of all the places they’ve been that day, we’re left to wonder what happens next…
Fast forward nine years: (spoilers to come, obv.)
Now, I’m sensitive to the fact that many of you haven’t seen these movies yet. (And I’m sorry to report they aren’t on Netflix instant. SGF peeps, I’ll let you borrow them!) So I won’t talk so much in detail about this second movie…but if you don’t want to know some details…look away!
This time Jesse and Celine are in Paris. They haven’t seen each other in nine years, but they reunite at Shakespeare & Co. (does it get any better?!) and spend the day together again. Only now they are nine years older & wiser, with old memories but new obligations. The actors actually wrote the screenplay, which explains why the dialogue seems so effortless. That’s why these movies work so well–we believe every word Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy say. Watching them be so real with each other–it makes me long for that kind of instant chemistry.
Celine: “Wanting–whether it’s intimacy with another person or a new pair of shoes–is kind of beautiful.”
… … …
Jesse: “If someone were to touch me, I’d dissolve into molecules.”
Life changes. Plans change.
Whether that’s cause for lamentation or celebration is up to our choice, right?
My lamentation/celebration at the end of movie #1 was: “Jenksie, that movie exhausts my heart!” After #2, just a heart clutch. You know the feeling? When something is so beautiful it hurts?
… … …
Want to go to Paris and walk around for a while?
I think it might do us both some good.