Stripping the story of a romantic relationship down to its essentials, then fiercely delving into the details and potential variations of those essentials, director Richard Linklater and his collaborators created a unique trilogy of films spanning eighteen years in both real and fictional time. In Before Sunrise (1995), Before Sunset (2004) and Before Midnight (2013), two appealing yet flawed characters meet by chance on a train headed for Vienna, risk extending their acquaintance during a one-night tour of the city, then spend the next two decades either brooding about or deeply engaged with each other.
The journey of Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) as a couple is like a complicated series of dance steps repeated many times but never in exactly the same way. Their marathon conversations build on one another, echoing back and forth across the years, sometimes consciously and sometimes not, generating intimacy one moment and misunderstanding the next. Words and memories bind them together, except when weaponized to serve resentment and a desire to inflict pain.
This work attempts to trace the subtle twists and turns of these two fascinating characters as their passion for each other waxes and wanes and waxes again. Like most relationships, of any kind, theirs never stands still. Before Sunset and Before Midnight reflect the inevitable wear and tear, but also the emotional depth, that time and aging can bring to friendship or love. Linklater's trilogy is a fictional exploration of possibilities that is well-worth exploring in itself for the insights and excitement it brings to its universal subject.
Rassmussen, Randy, "Tangos Before Sunrise, Sunset and Midnight: A Conversational Journey with Jesse and Celine" (2018). Librarian Publications. 2.
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