Director Richard Linklater and cinematographer Lee Daniel may have just realised one of the fundamental truths of the camera: put a man and a woman in a cramped space together for enough time, and soon the subtlest mannerisms are going to become some of the most outright and obvious expressions of their feelings.
I am talking about their two movies Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, recommended to me in this post, by Literary Dreamer. The basic story is that Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) meet on a train and immediately hit it off. Jesse has to get off at Vienna to catch a flight to the US the next morning, so he convinces – using a virtuoso argument involving time travel and a theme, of regrets about life-changing decisions, that is going to resonate through both movies – her to get off with him and catch a later train to her native Paris. Before Sunrise is about – spans – the day and night they spend roaming around Vienna (it is a part of his original argument that he’ll be roaming around all night because he can’t afford a hotel). The next movie is about what happens nine years later.
In Vienna, the size of the spaces they occupy for a significant amounts of time grows steadily larger, from a two-seat on a tram to a music trial room to a park. Which brings me to the fundamental truth. After a while of them sitting so close together that his removing his jacket provokes her to unconsciously withdraw physically, under the pretense of arranging her hair. And then there’s a wonderful little sequence where they go into a small room to listen to a record, and both of them… let me invoke Roger Ebert here (both of whose reviews I recommend for reading only after watching the movies, as he spoils them): “each one looks at the other, and then looks away, so as not to be caught. The way they do this – the timing, the slight embarrassment – is delicate and true to life.” For me, it transcended a sweet little scene to become an outright comedy, the type in which you laugh purely out of love. By the time we’re into parks and roofs and long shots, you can recognise each little mannerism from so far away that you find their movement more interesting than the scenic locations.
I wasn't looking at the green-lighted entrance
And, of course, there’s the dialogues. They discuss everything from what’s wrong with the world to… well, I don’t want to spoil, so I’ll just say why you are sitting and watching these two movies. And they are so good, so well-placed… Against my better judgement, here’s one from early in the second one (I, however, will abstain from identifying the souce of this dialogue):
Maybe what I’m saying is, the world might be evolving the way a person evolves. Right? Like, I mean, me for example. Am I getting worse? Am I improving? I don’t know. When I was younger, I was healthier, but I was, uh, wracked with insecurity, you know? Now I’m older and my problems are deeper, but I’m more equipped to handle them.
There is, however, one problem with the movies: the ends sucked. First, I thought it was because I enjoyed the characters so much. However, on closer thought – taking into account the fact that there’s going to be a third one -, I decided that maybe they were supposed to. Though technically closure shouldn’t happen (these two movies with closures would be truly horrible), I think I felt that there could be some amount of closure to be found in that third movie. There was the early morning, before sunrise; then there was the day, before sunset; what about an account of that night, to finish things – and the twenty-four hours – off? If it comes to India, there’s one person who’s going to be there, first day, first show. Otherwise, as soon as he DVD is out.
For now, Waking Life.