Before Sunrise (1995)

“Before Sunrise” revisits the idea of Richard Linklater’s first film, “It’s Impossible to Learn to Plow by Reading Books,” a brooding, nearly nonverbal super-8 film, which took place on a train. This debut film was never released theatrically.

The central premise of “Before Sunrise” is a brief encounter between an American boy, Jesse (Ethan Hawke), and a French girl, Celine (Julie Delpe) on a train. Rather than continue home to Paris, Celine gets off the train with Jesse in Vienna, and they spend the night talking about family, love, sex and death.

With the earnestness of intellectual youth–so atypical of contemporary American youth–they say awkwardly candid things that only young people say. On the surface, the situation is movieish (will they become lovers will they see each other again) yet, the movie depicts quite realistically a unique adventure, a free-of-worries night in a foreign city. The film lacks the playful spontaneity and dense texture of Godard’s lyrical movies about smart youth, such as “Band of Outsiders” and “Masculine-Feminine,” which have obviously inspired Linklater, who collaborated with actress Kim Krizan on the script. In sensibility, Linklater is closer to the French director Eric Rohmer, who’s more literal and methodical than Godard. Like Rohmer, Linklater brings a romantic flare, but the tone is warmer and there’s more hopefulness in the film than in Rohmer’s cerebral moral fables. Linklater shows more maturity and generosity to his characters here than he did to the layabout potheads and solipsists in his earlier pictures. Coming from different countries, Celine and Jesse cannot assume any mutual ground; they don’t even share the same pop-culture references. This means they have to expose themselves, talk about their innermost feelings and fears like first sexual experience. Linklater holds the camera on his actors through long shots, and let the scenes proceed naturally with all the hesitations, withdrawals and tentative advances that define real-life encounters.