Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Before Sunrise

A young American meets a French girl on a train passing through Europe. They strike up a conversation and he convinces her to get off the train with him at Vienna, spending the day together before he leaves the next morning on a flight home. This is a beautiful, poignant film and if you’re not on the verge of tears by the end, you must have a heart of stone. Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy are the stars. He is rather irritating, but then that is perhaps what makes this movie work. They very much feel like real people. Delpy herself is brilliant. We spend almost the entire time with them alone – one long first date as they discover this strange city. The conversations they have are rather student-like – philosophising, setting the world to rights – and it seems they disagree in a lot of ways (he is pessimistic, she optimistic). It’s a simple film but brave because of that, and the only obvious directorial statement comes at the end, which I won’t ruin. The back stories are not perhaps greatly convincing, but that doesn’t matter. They have the day together, and that is all. They explore the city and learn about each other, falling helplessly in love as they do so. At times it takes a bit of patience to put up with what is essentially an hour and a half conversation between two strangers, but you’ll be rewarded by the end as you realise how involved you’ve become. I would’ve liked to have seen this film before they made the sequel in 2004 (called Before Sunset), because the ending here is open. Now, however, we know the ending is in some way closed (unless we ignore the sequel, which is possible). As it stands on its own, this film will strike anyone who’s ever been young and in love (which must be most of us), and anyone who’s ever felt the inevitability of something special ending (ditto). I’m not sure if I could bear to watch it again, though.

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