Lovers hopelessly confined by reality in 'Before Sunrise'

By Doug Cummings

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Impromptu love affairs, those passionate weekend flings, are wonderfully exhilarating until circumstances come to an end, and the reality of life rises to take control.

Director Richard Linklater's ("Slacker," "Dazed and Confused") new movie, "Before Sunrise," depicts a romance between two travelers who become powerfully attached through a conversation they have over the course of an evening. Tragically, they know their relationship must end once morning arrives as they continue their separate lives.

The travelers are Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy), a young American and a French student who meet on a train while journeying from Budapest. Their conversation begins simply: he's on his way back to America and she's returning to Paris for the upcoming school year. Their conversation becomes more philosophical and they decide to prolong their encounter by pausing in Vienna, a city neither of them have visited before.

As they traverse the cobblestone streets, they talk about friends, memories, past romances, politics and religion, and they encounter a variety of locals, from palm readers to poets.

The movie is virtually a two-person show, with a dependence on dialogue that manages to strike emotional chords without resorting to sappiness. When Jesse first meets Celine, he recounts a childhood memory about a moment when he watered his lawn and sprayed the water from the hose into the air so that the sunlight would create a rainbow. He claims to have momentarily glimpsed his grandmother, who had previously passed away, through the shimmering spray. His story is visual enough and strange enough to seem believable, and its quaint spiritualism is endearing.

Ethan Hawke ("Reality Bites," "Alive") and Julie Delpy ("White") are animated and playfully talkative. However, there's a touch of sadness behind their philosophical banter, and the characters subsequently seem well-rounded and natural. The audience actually feels as if they are eavesdropping on a private conversation, and the straightforward camerawork doesn't get in the way of the characters.

The cinematography highlights Vienna's romantic ambience in a naturalistic and non-glittery fashion. The city's beauty stems from its architecture and landscape rather than from imposing filters or polished compositions.

"Before Sunrise" could have played like a by-the-numbers teen romance, complete with a popular soundtrack and schoolyard sexual innuendo. But instead, its respect for its characters and its emphasis on a real, conversational relationship rather than a frilly emotional fantasy makes it moving portrait of two people who are amazed by each other, but are romantically confined by reality.

"Before Sunrise" is showing at Century Gateway, 792-9000.

Read Next Article