Before Sunrise


U.S.A.| 1995. Colour. Dolby digital stereo. 105 mins.

After meeting on a train out of Budapest, a young American (Ethan Hawke) and a French student (Julie Delpy) casually explore Vienna for 14 hours. What emerges from their impromptu date manages to say a lot about the fragility and uncertainty of contemporary relationships. Linklater’s tact and sincerity in handling such potentially mawkish material are as evident in what he leaves out as in what he includes. This didn’t stop some fans of the director’s earlier films accusing him of ‘going Hollywood’, failing to notice that Before Sunrise owes a great debt to European cinema. There are strong traces of the films of Eric Rohmer, especially his classic My Night With Maud (1969), in which philosophical conversation is set to the fore and talk replaces action.
Before Sunrise affirmed Linklater as the American independent auteur who best understands the art of conversation. Hawke and Delpy talk about all the expected things—careers, parents, ageing and mortality, life and death, ideals versus reality, relationships and love. Linklater and his frequent co-writer Kim Krizan have an ear for the way young people talk. While the couple get serious and philosophical in their courtship dance, Before Sunrise maintains an awareness of their earnestness without itself putting on airs of profundity.

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