Thursday 30 December 2004

Before Sunset (2004) - ickleReview (DVD)

The sequel to Before Sunrise (1995). Director Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy collaborate again, working more closely together on the script. In an on-the-set bonus feature of the DVD, Linklater calls them his fellow filmmakers. The two actors are also given full writing credits. An inspirational love story that magically avoids the Hollywood ::bleuch:: Moment.

It's nine years later. Jesse (Hawke) has written a book about his one night in Vienna with Celine and is on a promotion tour of European cities, last stop: Paris. Continuing the James Joyce/Ulysses theme (the first movie was set on Bloomsday, 16 June: the day of Ulysses and the day Joyce first dated Nora Barnacle), Jesse is promoting his book in the Shakespeare & Co. bookshop, where Sylvia Beach first published Joyce's Ulysses. Jesse even says he spent the previous night in the loft above the store. Celine has read his book and, as she is a regular patron of the bookshop, is aware that Jesse will be in town. Just as his talk is coming to an end, she appears ethereally at the window. They go out for coffee and spend the rest of the day, before sunset and Jesse's pending flight home to New York, talking like they did in Vienna: catching up on each other's lives, but really just picking up where they left off on the platform at the Viennese Bahnhof.

The concept behind this sequel is given in the trailer, which features the scene from Before Sunrise when Jesse persuades Celine to get off the train with him and spend the night in Vienna. Before Sunset fulfills that "what if", a decade later when Celine is stuck in a relationship that is not really fulfilling; and she thinks back to what could have been if she'd stuck with that guy she met all those years ago...

Jesse and Celine dominate even more than in the first film: there are hardly any cameos of Parisian life: they are so much into each other that they barely notice the Paris streets and parks they walk through. Time seems more precious than their first meeting, which seemed suspended in a timeless bliss. Their time together is limited in a more grown-up world of families and responsibilites. The entire film is like those delicious last moments of a conversation where both of you are dallying; neither wants to put an end to it because, in a way, that will be a rejection of the other person.

While Before Sunrise ended with the empty places that Jesse and Celine had populated together, that is where Before Sunset begins: the locations in Paris that they will make their own. This is an outstanding film with one of the most beautifully toned endings you will ever see.

Nugget: features a couple of wonderfully delicate songs written and performed by Delpy: Celine's version of events: her artistic response in complement to Jesse's book about that timeless night in Vienna.


  1. I've watched this again - or more like listened to it while I was bummelling around in the morning. It works even just as a soundtrack. The scenery of the Left Bank of Paris of course adds something, but the dialogue is so strong that it's enough on its own.

  2. A third viewing, this time in preparation for the third part of the trilogy, "Before Midnight", which I'm hoping to see in the cinema very soon.

    I maintain the view that this is one of the best sequels ever made. It's heartbreaking.

  3. Watched this again on Friday 1 June. It still pushes my buttons. Again it changes when you know what happens in the third film, “Before Midnight”, which I watched again tonight. I love how threads from one film are picked up in another.