Richard Linklater directed Ethan Hawke and July Delpy in the 1994 Before Sunrise. Ethan Hawke plays Jesse an American returning from Madrid after breaking up with his long-distance girlfriend and Delpy plays Celine returning from Budapest after visiting her grandmother. Total strangers these two end up sitting next to each other when another couple starts arguing loudly in the train. What ensues from there is a romance like no other.
There are no grand gestures or drama, just two young people in their 20s walking about in Vienna talking about everything under the sun. You are with them as they talk about their respective childhood and then about growing up and what their idea of growing up would be like. What they want to do with their lives and their dreams.
They have only 1 night in Vienna and they both agree that they are not going to exchange numbers and addresses to make it a long drawn out thing. Instead they want to live in the moment and take everything in. you can see a definite bond developing between the two as they each open up about things one does not generally discuss with someone they are trying to charm or impress. These are just two lost souls on an adventure.
Ethan Hawke is the very American Jesse and July Delpy the very French Celine, the conversation between the two is the idealized version of romance without the ribbons and roses , it is simply a wonderful conversation between these two , their views on Mortality, Morality, religion, love, family and many more.
My favorite moment from the movie is the one in the restaurant where they each pretend to have a phone conversation with their respective friends. It’s warm, tender and genuine at the same time it is funny.
It is very hard to explain the sense of contentment I felt watching these two characters just talk it was like someone was having a conversation I wanted to have with no holds barred no topic taboo no embarrassment and no judgment. Just a sense of belonging with a stranger who grows more familiar as the time passes.
What Linklater did here is incredible, just 2 people in one of the most beautiful cities in the world but it is not about the city and its sprawling palaces and architecture and rivers and canals as it is about these two people experiencing it, how each place sparks a conversation, which in insolation means very little other than random thoughts but when pulled together it forms this wonderful tapestry of lives that they have lived and hope to live in the future.
I kept hearing about these two movies for the longest time but never got around to seeing them. And now that I am going through a phase in my life ( that’s a story for another blog) where I meet these strangers and all I can care about is their ability to have a conversation and having seen this movie I wanna take that train from Madrid to Paris and meet my Céline and spent a day in Vienna! I think this movie has quickly climbed the top spot of best romantic movie of all time for me.
The movie ends with Jesse and Celine promising to meet again in Vienna, leaving you with questions about will they meet? What if they don’t meet? Or if we really want them to meet? Because this one day was so unpredictable and so unconventional that all that can happen if they meet and become lovers is that they will grow apart slowly and that is not the romance I want for these two amazing individuals.