Before Sunrise (1995) was directed by Richard Linklater and co-written with Kim Krizan. American Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and French Celine (Julie Delpy) meet on a train going to Vienna. They start talking and before long, engrossed in conversation, realise they’ve arrived in Vienna and Jesse must leave to catch his flight back home the next day. On a hunch he asks Celine to get off the train with him and spend the day in Vienna. She does, and there we have it. Two early twentysomethings talking, while they explore Vienna, closely followed by a companionable camera.
This is an ordinary day when nothing really happens, but instead of the dialogue being a reaction to the action the dialogue is the action! They stop at cafes, walk in the park and keep talking. It’s so simple and so realistic; their conversation is rambling, they go off on tangents, they show off and lark about and try and impress eachother. At times I felt the sort of boredom you get from overhearing someone elses conversation,mixed with a sort of nostalgia, (whilst wincing) for those pseudo-philosophical things we all say when we’re that age and trying to be all aloof and self-aware: “I think about death 24 hours a day” says the Parisian student, Celine chatting to the attractive young American on the train!
Before Sunset (2004) is set 9 years later and this time Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy have joined Richard Linklater as writers. Jesse, now a successful author is signing books in Paris (Shakespeare and Company!), he looks up and there she is. His flight back to New York leaves in 80 minutes, time to re start the conversation. Filmed in real time, long uninterrupted shots show them walking through Paris, parks, and cafes. Their conversation is more guarded and polite at first but nothing feels contrived. Their lives are more complicated, they have commitments and have lost that sense that anything is possible. But this made them more interesting I think.
In both films the characters are in a bubble, just them, their conversation and the city, it was all realistically magical, simple and utterly believable.