I love these films. There isn’t a plot in any real sense; it’s just two characters talking to each other most of the time. But this is what I love about these films: it feels real. Julie Delpy plays Céline and Ethan Hawke plays Jesse. They meet by accident on a train in the first film, Before Sunrise. They spend their night talking and feeling connected to each other, then at the end of the film they agree to an An Affair to Remember-esque meeting in six months if they still have feelings for each other. Young and optimistic, they decide not to exchange phone numbers. Before Sunset picks off with Jesse’s Parisian leg of his book tour, nine years later, when he finally gets to reconcile with Céline.
‘I guess when you’re young, you just believe there’ll be many people with whom you’ll connect with. Later in life, you realize it only happens a few times.’
Life inbetween these films has been hard for both characters, both can’t forget the other. Before Midnight, released last year, sees them together with four-year old twins. Their long and intriguing talks have been replaced as they have gotten used to each other. Both have made sacrifices yet finally have a night to themselves, away from the children.
‘If you want true love then this is it. This is real life. It’s not perfect, but it’s real.’
I love these films because Delpy and Hawke have amazing chemistry. Their conversations are in insight into different personalities and thoughts and feelings. Neither character is easily put into a box, as is often the case with film portrayals of characters. They are imperfect and relatable (in quite a subtle way – no constant clumsiness or falling over which is how a lot of media portray relatable people). They are real thinking people who want to connect with each other. It’s fascinating to watch the intimacy of the two characters just talking to each other. And in some ways, they are still getting to know each other in the final film. A question that has always fascinated me is ‘how well can we really know another person?’ In the final film Jesse says that he knows Céline better than he knows anybody else. This is probably the most honest thing you can say to a significant other.
The films follow the protagonists’ relationships with themselves and with each other. Interestingly, concerning my love for Anais Nin, I thought it was interesting to note that Kim Krizan, the co-creator of the characters along with Richard Linklater, is a Nin scholar and wrote the foreword to a recent book about her. I think that there is some relation between Nin’s writing and these films. Both are very human, I think, very honest about relationships and human behaviour.