ByArt-Peeter Roosve, writer at
I am interested in humanity, life and philosophy. Movies, TV shows and videogames are a fun way to explore them ;)
Art-Peeter Roosve

I have to be honest here. I am writing this article not so much because I have a lot to write about regarding Before Sunrise as a movie, but simply because I want to write about that movie.

The problem, however, is that how to write about a movie that is literally, from start to finish, two people talking to each other about themes that revolve around self-fulfillment and self-discovery through siginficant other, relationships and life in general I suppose. Now, these themes are both universal and yet also extremely personal at the same time. Therefore, I feel I can't really review that movie as much as I woun't "review" a great conversation I had with someone.

But, perhaps, therein lays the key on how to approach writing about this movie and why it is good for every film fan (and person in general I suppose) to watch a movie like that every now and then.

Spoiler alert... no, not really ;)

Just walking and talking...
Just walking and talking...

So, for those who haven't seen the movie, no need to fear spoilers, since well, as said before, what happens in the plot of this movie is not really as important as what is said during that simple and yet effective plot. I'm still not going spoil anything major in regards to plot, but to make my point, I will bring out few aspects of the story and what conclusions I made from them. For that, firstly, let's quickly sum up the movie to create a necessary context for what I'm about to say.

In short, the movie is a brilliantly written (Richard Linklater), brilliantly acted little masterpiece about an American guy named Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and a French girl named Céline ( Julie Delphi) who meet on a train... yeah, sounds like cliché already, I know, but bare with me on this one ;). So, they get a nice conversation going between eachother, where both sides feel like they have some nice chemistry or common ground. As the train stops at Vienna, they spontaneously decide to spend a day together in Vienna without any real plan or idea, but just to aimlessly walk around the city in order to continue their conversation and see where it goes. Both also know that they each have a next morning train to catch, so they have this one day.

And that is pretty much the entire film summed up. They just walk around Vienna, enter some places every now and then, briefly bump into other random people and just talk about the aformentined themes.

Of course, to talk about this movie, is actually more to talk about the themes discussed between the leads, but in this article I want to focus on a specific aspect of the movie and why it is a necessary reminder on the power of film.

"Hey, guess what, we didn't go to that play"

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Near the beginnig of their little aimless trip in Vienna, they meet these two local theatre guys (they probably had names too but let's leave it at that for now) from whom they ask some directions. As they converse, the "theatre guys" invite them to a play they are involved with during the evening of that day and they agree to come. End of scene.

Fast forward to near the ending of the film where Jesse and Céline have their final big conversation before departing for their respective trains and suddenly Jesse says something along the lines of "Hey, guess what, we didn't go to that play" and Céline's answer is something like "Yes, I guess we didn't", as both laugh it of and then forget about it.

So, why bring out this moment? Well, if one was to approach it from classic storytelling or narrative point of view, you could ask that why was this play and these "theatre guys" involved within the story in the first place? Why set up an event in the beginning of the movie, only to just briefly mention it in the ending about how unimportant it was?

Well, excactly for that very reason. To highlight how unimportant everything else besides the core of the movie is, which is the relationship and the conversation between the lead characters. While watching the movie, I didn't feel let down by storytelling that this narrative went nowhere, I simply laughed it off along with the main characters.

A refreshing reminder...

A necessary "time out" ...
A necessary "time out" ...

That brings me to my main point on why a movie like that is a refreshing reminder on the power of film. It give us this nice little "time out" from our own busy lives and enables us to reflect and think with a clear mind. To sum up, it offers us a time for reflection.

To explain it further, when Jesse and Céline decide to make this previously unmeditated decision to leave the train together, it allows them to temporarily detach themselves from the world, of their obligations, of who they are in society and just focus on eachother and the thoughts they discuss. It is important to highlight, that when the morning arrives, Jesse points out that he and Céline have entered "real time" again.

And, indeed, therein lays this refreshing reminder on the power of movies. Much like Jesse and Céline detach themselves from the world for this short while and just focus on the ideas without any disturbing factors, then, watching a minimalistic and focused movie like that, can have a similar effect (albeit to a smaller degree) on every person watching it.

Why is it important?

Fast pace of the world going by
Fast pace of the world going by

It's fair to say that every now and then taking some time to reflect and think about the world around you, is quite necessary to keep a clear and, shall we say, sane outlook on life. The problem is, that to think with a clear head, it would probably be a good idea to cast aside most of the everyday stuff and problems like... obligations, roles ( on many levels), deadlines on work etc. I am not suggesting to ignore them. Absolutely not. But having these things in mind make the whole aformentioned reflecting and thinking with a clear head thing quite difficult.

Therefore, although it obviously doesn't beat an actual conversation/reflection between individuals about these themes discussed in the movie and I am definitely not saying that every movie should inspire to go in that direction, since movies can have so many different functions (a big epic chapter of a franchise can offer things a movie like that can't and vice-versa). But every now and then, a minimalistic and well made movie, that just takes it's time and focuses solely on reflection and thinking about important themes without any disturbing and surperfluous outside factors (both from the plot structure and general point of view), helps us, the viewers, to take this hour and a half to detach from our everyday lives and think more clearly.

To conclude

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In the case of "Before Sunrise", it is not so much about escaping the reality, as many say, is one of the main functions of movies. But instead, it is taking some time off to temporarily detach oneself from everyday stress in order to properly address the world (reality) around you and then... enter back into "real time" with a fair bit more refreshed mind ;).


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