I had heard rumours a couple of years ago that Richard Linklater was working on a follow up to Before Sunset (2004) but didn’t hear anything else until someone mentioned that it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival last month, now called Before Midnight. Given that there were nine years between Before Sunrise and Before Sunset my first reaction was that it is too soon to make a third film. Then I realised it has been nine years since Before Sunset, then I felt old! When before Sunset came out in 2004, I was surprised, firstly that an indie film was receiving a sequel, then secondly that it was getting one after such a long gap. It doesn’t seem like long ago that I was sat in a cinema watching it, this is a prime example of how our perception of time speeds up as we get older. It also got me thinking about the original film and how I came to see it.
Back in 1995 I was a cynical film student interested in young hip directors like Quentin Tarantino and the greats I was studying: Ford, Hitchcock, Kurosawa, Welles etc. A few friends were going to Before Sunrise (1995). Was I interested in seeing what was billed as a romantic drama? In a word NO! But, I had seen Slacker (1991) and Dazed and Confused (1993), liked the former, loved the latter. Although not one of my favourite directors the way he is now, Richard Linklater was certainly on my radar. I also to be honest had a bit of a thing for Julie Delpy after seeing Killing Zoe (1993) and Three Colours: White (1994). So I went along not expecting anything, what happened, I loved it. In a year that included Heat, The Usual Suspects, Se7en and Casino it is easily in my top three on the year. More importantly than that, it taught me a lesson about being judgmental of movies and of perceived genres. I own both movies on DVD and have watched them back to back many times including just a few weeks ago and am never disappointed.
Part of the appeal of the movie is the natural realism and the familiarity of the situation. We have all met someone in passing on the street, on public transport in a shop and strike up a conversation. Some of those lead to lasting relationships, but most are passing conversations that don’t go anywhere. We get of at our stop, or get served in the shop and we never see the person again. The movie gives us the what if of life. Bet then we get to the end of Before Sunrise, an ending that cuts deep down into the viewers personality and tells us about our outlook in life. – WARNING SPOILER ALERT – Jesse & Celine (Ethan Hawke & Julie Delpy) spend an afternoon and a night getting to know each other before having to go their separate ways. Without exchanging contact details they agree to meet up six months later. Did they meet up or did one or even both of them not make it? Until Before Sunset we could only speculate and what you think happens says a lot about you as a viewer and as a person. It also leaves a problem when writing a sequel that was again perfectly resolved.
Given the way Before Sunset ended it is easy to speculate where the characters will be in Before Midnight, but I hope Richard Linklater has some surprises for us. With a script by Linklater and the stars Julie Delpy & Ethan Hawke who appear so perfectly in tune with the characters we can be confident that whatever happens we will not be disappointed with the direction they take.