Saturday, February 14, 2015

Before Sunrise

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Before_Sunrise
♣♣♣♣♣/♣♣♣♣♣

Celine (Julie Delpy) avoids a bickering German couple on the train by transferring next to Jesse (Ethan Hawke), an American traveler on his way to Vienna. They initiate a conversation and are soon talking about anything under the sun. The themes they tackle somehow give a glimpse of what they have been through with life as well as their beliefs on matters ranging from religion to philosophy of life in general. Boarding a plane back to the US the next day, he convinces her to accompany him in Vienna where he plans to just enjoy the city overnight instead of hanging out at the airport. She agrees and decides to go back to Paris the morning after he leaves. Knowing that they only have one night, they try to make the most out of it, not really sure if they should capitalize on the instant connection that they have and pursue something more concrete or long-term.

As a friend of mine said when I asked if this movie was any good, it is the conversations that they have which really make you appreciate the whole viewing experience. Come to think of it, neither Delpy nor Hawke is the star of this movie, but rather the interesting dialogues that they share which offer a unique and, most of the time, interesting take on everyday life issues.

Having Vienna as the backdrop was a good decision because this city is both romantic and aesthetically appealing without trying too hard. It can stay in the background without being focused on that much, but still manage to stand out, a trait it shares with several other Central European capitals. It is also amazing how little has changed even after two decades have already passed by. The only weird thing is how there is talk of schillings and francs in a time when everything is already in Euro, but then again, this was shot in 1995.

There really is nothing that great to expect from the acting. Films like this are heavily dependent on the script, and it is in listening well that you can get the satisfaction that you are looking for. Both Delpy and Hawke were in their mid-20’s when they shot this movie, which is just perfect because they effectively personify the struggles of that particular age group, even when two decades have already elapsed after they did it.

This is, in fact, one of the good aspects of the film: It is always timely. It is amusing alright, given how society back then appears to be so different from what it is now. The reality, however, is that when you dig deeper you find out that we human beings go through the same set of life struggles regardless which decade we are in. The medium in which we express our thoughts may have changed, but the core dilemmas fundamental to our existence remain the same.

It also helps that the setup is that of two strangers traveling together, even more so now, when travel has become more affordable and accessible to many. Such a scenario could easily happen in real life, regardless if you are on leisure travel or following the backpacker’s circuit. You can even recreate your very own scenes in Vienna yourself, and probably achieve the same feel as far as the ambiance is concerned. Romantic notions aside, the movie makes an impact because it also makes you realize that it is just that, a movie. The what-if scenarios are possible, but it does not necessarily mean that they would come true.

The movie itself could be compared to traveling with a total stranger. The experience is cathartic because most people think that their walls go up in the presence of someone they barely know, when it is always the case that their guard usually goes down and give way to a good conversation. Perhaps it stems from the thought that you do not really have to invent an image far from yourself, knowing that it is not a necessity given how you know the connection would not last anyway.

Even so, such form of escapism is temporary at best. Even if one party is ready to give up everything and take a leap of faith, the other would most likely be obliged to return to the life he or she would like to leave behind. Some people take the chance and succeed, but they are more of exceptions rather than the rule. In a way, the movie implies that such temporary moments of escapism should just be enjoyed and serve as part of a bigger learning process involved in making your life more worthwhile. 


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