All day I’ve built a lifetime and now the sun sinks to undo it.

Recently I watched both Before Sunrise and Before Sunset. The movies were made eight years apart and follow the story of a man and a woman that meet on a train traveling through Europe. Each movie takes place in a single day, the second, actually, covers only about an hour and a half, and shot in real time.

In the first movie Jesse (Ethan Hawke) is traveling to Vienna to catch a plain the next morning, and Celine (Julie Delpy) home to Paris. When the train pulls into Vienna, Jesse convinces Celine to spend the night with him in the city. The two spend the night talking and seeing the sites of Vienna. As they learn more about each other, they begin to fall for each other, but they know they have only one night, and it would be impossible to get together.

The second film picks up 8 years later, and finds Jesse in Paris. He is on a tour promoting his book, a novelized version of his night with Celine. She comes to one of his appearances, and they see each other for the first time in years. Jesse has little more than an hour before he must be at the airport, so the two wander the streets of Paris and talk of what might have been.

These are two movies that are absolutely made by their dialogue. Aside form the two stars, there are only a handful of people that speak in either movies, and their dialogue is minimal. The writing is excellent, and there is great chemistry between Hake and Delpy that really brings the script to life. Both of these films, the second in particular are reminiscent of Rope by Alfred Hitchcock: long takes, strong dialogue, and a focus on characters in a singular way.

The characters are warm and believable and strangely captivating, so much so that eight years later, the original director and the two stars came together and co-wrote the script for Before Sunset.

Director Richard Linklater created two wonderful works of art with these films. He used two beautiful cities as backdrops against which he told a great story. There is a magic and a charm in these films that is hard to describe and even more difficult to create. I highly recommend watching them at least once.

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2 responses to “All day I’ve built a lifetime and now the sun sinks to undo it.

  1. I’ve got both of these on DVD. Bought them for my wife. But the concept, for me, was better than the execution. To be honest I thought they were a bit…dull.

  2. These two movies are in my top 5 (I think I narrowed them down to 5) favorites of all time.

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