What started off as a small movie in 1994 has become a cult film for college students, or that’s at least what I’ve read. Even if what I read wasn’t true, it still wouldn’t surprise me. Before Sunrise is perfect for college students because of what it is about: hope. People go to college because they want to learn and are optimistic that they will learn and find what they want to do in life. Before Sunrise fits that same mentality – going to a foreign country, meeting someone and falling in love while just talking about feelings, thoughts and life – perhaps intimacy at its truest form – and being in one’s company. It’s a dream that everyone has had.
Jesse (Ethan Hawke) is an American who traveled to Spain to meet his girlfriend. Afterward, to pass the time before he leaves Europe he travels through Europe on train to catch the sights. On his way to Vienna, he meets a young French girl, Celine (Julie Delphy). They talk. They talk more, and with their words they connect with one another.
Directed by Richard Linklater, much of the movie really has no action, which is very true to life because life is much like a conversation. It is only in conversation that we usually express our thoughts. Some keep their thoughts in diaries or weblogs, but it is through voicing our thoughts to others that you get the same emotion and essence of their thoughts that you wouldn’t see in their words. Their eyes say something; their hand gestures say something; their facial expression says something; their body language says something. We live to express ourselves.
Life is about risk, which makes life exciting. Jesse makes a risk by proposing that Celine get off of the train with him in Vienna. Celine makes a risk by agreeing. As she gets off the train, she looks toward the opposite direction from where Jesse got off, down at the ground and back towards Jesse. She hesitates for a second before jumping off to follow Jesse. Based on the shot, it seemed that it was a hard decision for her. But later on in the movie, it is revealed that it was actually a very easy decision. Risk does pay off, but you won’t find out unless you take the risk.
Much of what Jesse and Celine talk about are their thoughts on everything – much on the themes of life and death. In one scene, Jesse and Celine pretend to talk to theirfriends on the telephone, each pretending to be the other’s friend. In what is a truly honest moment, they talk about how they feel about one another. Nothing in life is harder than to tell another person how you feel about them.
Throughout Jesse and Celine’s wanderings in Vienna, the shots change rather than be mostly in front of the two changes intermitting to shots behind them – to make sure that the audience remembers that they are not following us, but rather we are following them. At the end of the film, there are also several shots of the various places that Jesse and Celine walked throughout Vienna – a bridge; a boat restaurant; an alley; a cemetery and a park, which all seem ordinary, but for this night everything came alive.
Is there such a thing as true love? Is it possible that there is one person that we can so easily connect with? I’m sure people like to think so, and it is that chance encounter with that possible true love that keeps people looking.