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Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise is a timeless masterpiece on love

ethan hawke and julie delpy in before sunrise
Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy in a still from the Richard Linklater directorial Before Sunrise

Before Sunrise movie cast: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy
Before Sunrise movie director: Richard Linklater
Before Sunrise movie rating: 4 stars

Dazed and Confused, School of Rock, Boyhood – director Richard Linklater has given Hollywood many good (and some) average movies. But perhaps my favourite is 1995’s Before Sunrise starring the talented duo of Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy.

Love is a strange concept. It is difficult to describe, especially the romantic kind. What is it, this love? Affection? Caring for someone, needing and wanting them to be by your side? Many filmmakers have tried capturing the emotion before Linklater and after his 1995 acclaimed film. But what sets Before Sunrise apart from the herd is its conversations on love.

The film has no narrative arc as such. Two strangers, played wonderfully by Hawke and Delpy, meet each other on a train and disembark in Vienna and spend the night together, getting to know each other.

“If there’s any kind of magic in this world it must be in the attempt of understanding someone sharing, something. I know, it’s almost impossible to succeed …. but who cares really? The answer must be in the attempt,” Delpy’s Celine says at one point in the movie. And it strikes you that she is right and that is what these characters are getting at in the film. Linklater was probably trying to understand this in the process of making Before Sunrise. So, what is love then? It is that understanding and almost complete comprehension of someone other than yourself.

Before Sunrise is bittersweet. Sweet because the movie shows you the beginnings of a romance, where you just want to reach out for that person at all times. Spending time together talking, acting silly, listening and watching closely. The first signs of something akin to a potential relationship begins to blossom. And despite knowing how it might end, you hope. And that is where its bitterness lies.

Before Sunrise is essentially about hope. We humans have a love-hate relationship with love. We diss it. We make fun of it, but we also badly want it. The Richard Linklater directorial explores this feeling in the way only he can, therefore making it a memorable cinematic experience for his audience.

And what stands out, you ask? Who is the hero and heroine? Yes, the performances are great and so is the direction, but none of that would have been possible had it not been for Richard Linklater and Kim Krizan’s stunning script. A screenplay that says much, shows much and leaves much to the imagination.