Friday, 22 July 2011

Before Sunrise (1995) - A review

While reading a movie review, what are the associative words and genres, you commonly encounter when you see the word romantic? It could be mushy or it could be comedy or it could even be thriller, for that matter; but how about an intellectually stimulating romantic movie?

A little paradoxical maybe but that is what ‘Before Sunrise’ exactly is – a movie that makes you contemplate on a variety of issues while you are involuntarily smiling at the romantic component throughout its 105 minutes runtime.

The plot is simple; an American guy, Jesse hurt from a break-up is travelling through Europe and meets a French maiden, Celine on the Euro Rail. He convinces her to get off the train and spend the time with him till he catches a flight back home the next morning. So they have a day and a night ‘before sunrise’ all to themselves.

Beyond this plot, the movie has no story per se. Director Richard Linklater along with his co-writer Kim Krizan has experimented on an interesting genre of film-making. The movie comprises of just free-flowing dialogues between the two characters, played convincingly by Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, as they roam on the streets of the beautiful Austrian city, Vienna.

To compensate for the lack of motion in the movie, Linklater has very intelligently added symbolic motion to complement the dialogues. It could be the moving countryside through the train’s window, walking people on the streets, a moving gramophone record or even the throbbing metal ball inside a pinball machine; everything diverts the mind from speed of the movie and let audience concentrate on content of the dialogues. 

Even cinematographer Lee Daniels and sound department should be commended for not making the peripheral motions and sounds distracting in nature, rather adding to smooth flow of the movie.

Coming to the content of the dialogues, the writing duo have tried to say nothing phenomenal. The conversation between the two characters touch upon many day to day issues just as it would in reality. It ranges from discussions about upbringing, marriage and relationships to reincarnation, feminism and even impact of technology on our social lives; issues that make the audience contemplate and introspect at the same time.

The movie is filled with interesting anecdotes like when Celine claims that feminism has been invented by the men to fool around with women by associating liberation with lack of commitment. Some peculiar characters too keep popping up time to time like a palm reader and a roadside poet, whose interactions bring out the difference between a sceptic Jesse and a gullible Celine.

The highlight of the movie is those romantic moments which showcase an element of sweet innocence. For example, when sitting in a restaurant, Celine and Jesse make a fake phone call to each other, role-playing each other’s friends back home and express their feelings face to face; or when they enter a booth to listen to a record on gramophone inside a music shop and get embarrassed at the romantic lyrics, stealing a glance at each other but not seeing eye to eye.

So while all this is going on, the viewer is wondering what will happen in the end; will the two stay together or just part away? It is this mystery that keeps one hooked till the end and the director culminates the movie as intelligently as the rest it. The final shot before the credits traverses through all the places, as seen in the morning, where the two characters had spent their previous evening and creates a nice effect. Of course, to know what happens in the end and to indulge in all these brilliant moments, get a DVD and watch the movie.

I go with 4 ½ stars out of 5 for this daring experiment and a great rendition by Linklater.

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