The love story between Jesse and Céline in Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise develops on the screen through the words and powerful images of the city in the background. And both by day and by night, it does not lose its charm, but, on the contrary, is here treated by the director as a real character.
In a small corner of the world…
Vienna: what better city than this to be a spectator to the thousands and thousands of love stories that are born every day? In the underground subway at Karlsplatz, right in the city centre, at the exit near the Secession Palace, there are numerous displays, whose numbers are constantly updated about what is happening in the world at the same time. One of these displays even shows how many people have fallen in love in Vienna every day. Apparently, then, the location, too, often contributes to creating the right atmosphere. And American director Richard Linklater, who with Before Sunrise (1995), seems to know something about this, as made a real cult film set in the beautiful Austrian capital.
The first, extraordinary chapter of a trilogy that would continue in 2004 (Before Sunset) and 2013 (Before Midnight), Before Sunrise sees the birth of a (potential) love story between Jesse and Céline (played by Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, who also wrote the screenplay), who – she French, he American and both very young – meet by chance on a train from Budapest to Vienna and, thanks to a bizarre situation, start chatting.
This deep and never banal conversation between them (in which human relationships, self-knowledge and life in general are the almost absolute protagonists) will continue throughout the day and night, before the inevitable moment of saying goodbye the next morning at Vienna’s Hauptbahnhof station.
Thus, on the streets of the city, in the characteristic and picturesque Viennese cafés, but also along the magical banks of the Danube, we see the two young protagonists confiding, exchanging opinions, but also laughing and joking, in a series of continuous dialogues with a strongly Rohmerian imprint (let us not forget, by the way, that Eric Rohmer himself has always been a model for Linklater) and an approach that reminds us of a true stream of consciousness.
Everything seems transitory in Before Sunrise. Everything, despite the depth of its essence, seems destined for an inevitable end. Or maybe not? If time, on the one hand, seems to be Jesse and Céline’s worst enemy, on the other hand, it becomes, at the same time, a valuable ally of Linklater himself, who, throughout his career, has always given the element of time a special significance. It will be time that will decide whether or not, in the future, their relationship will see its own fulfilment. Just as it is, in this case, the inevitable passage of time that plays a central role, making everything so incredibly extemporaneous and random, but, for this very reason, also more beautiful and more precious than ever.
The love story between Jesse and Céline develops on the screen through the words and powerful images of the city that appear in the background. And both by day and by night, it does not lose its appeal. On the contrary, it is treated here by the director as a real character, without whom, perhaps, nothing would have begun, as a precious confidante, witness to the love story and secrets of Jesse and Céline, as well as to numerous other love stories that are born every day under its sky.