Before Sunrise (1995): Linklater Talk Fest

before_sunset_poster“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.

“Before Sunrise” world premiered at the 1995 Sundance Film Fest, and theatrically released a week later, on January 27, 1995.

Jesse and Céline make an appearance in Linklater’s 2001 film Waking Life. A sequel in 2004, “Before Sunset,” picks up the story nine years after the first film, and a second sequel, “Before Midnight,” in 2013, picks up the story eighteen years on.  All three panels have been critically acclaimed; the 2013 received a Writing Oscar nomination.

Will there be another chapter in nine years?  Stay tuned.


before_sunset_10_linklater_hawke_delpyThe 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.

before_sunset_9_linklater_hawkeThe 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.

Detailed Plot

before_sunset_8_linklater_hawke_delpyThe story begins on June 16, 1994, when Jesse meets Céline on a train from Budapest and strikes up a conversation with her. Jesse is going to Vienna to catch a flight back to the US, whereas Céline is returning to university in Paris after visiting her grandmother.

When they reach Vienna, Jesse convinces Céline to disembark with him, saying that 10 or 20 years down the road, she might not be happy with her marriage and might wonder how her life would have been different if she had picked another guy. He says he is “the same boring, unmotivated guy.” Jesse does not have enough money to rent a room for the night, so they decide to roam around in Vienna.

before_sunset_7_linklater_hawke_delpyAfter visiting some landmarks in Vienna, they share a kiss at the top of the Wiener Riesenrad at sunset. As they continue to wander around the city, they begin to talk more openly with each other. Their conversations range from topics about love, life, religion, and so on.  Céline tells Jesse that her last boyfriend broke up with her six months ago, because he felt that she “loved him too much,”

Jesse reveals he had initially come to Europe to spend time with his girlfriend who was studying in Madrid, but they had broken up. He then bought a Eurail pass and traveled around Europe.

before_sunset_6_linklater_hawke_delpyWalking alongside the Donaukanal (Danube canal), they are approached by a poor man who offers to write them a poem with a word of their choice in it. Jesse and Céline chose the word “milkshake,” and are soon presented with the poem Delusion Angel (written for the film by the poet David Jewell).

In a Viennese café, Jesse and Céline stage fake phone conversations with each other, playing each other’s friends they pretend to call. Céline reveals that she was ready to get off the train with Jesse before he had asked her. Jesse reveals that after he broke up with his girlfriend, he bought a flight that really was not much cheaper, and that he really wanted an escape.

They admit their attraction to each other, though they understand that they probably will not see each other again.  To make the best of what time they have, they end with the implication of a sexual encounter between them. The hopelessly romantic Jesse explains, given the choice, he would marry her instead of never seeing her again.

before_sunset_5_linklater_hawke_delpyThe tale ends the next day at the train station, where the two hastily decide not to exchange any contact information but instead agree to meet together at the same place in six months. leave.



Ethan Hawke as Jesse Wallace

Julie Delpy as Céline

Andrea Eckert as Wife on train

Hanno Pöschl as Husband on train

Karl Bruckschwaiger as Guy on bridge

Tex Rubinowitz as Guy on bridge

Erni Mangold as Palm reader

Dominik Castell as Street poet

Haymon Maria Buttinger as Bartender

Bilge Jeschim as Belly dancer

Adam Goldberg (uncredited) as Man sleeping on train