This fine romance won't survive another revival

Don't let the young lovers of Before Sunrise grow any older, argues Francesca Steele

In Before Sunrise, a sweet and unashamedly pretentious romance that gripped a generation of teenagers 16 years ago with its youthful optimism and promise of adventure, Jesse, a main character, jokes about making a reality TV programme that would capture "the poetry of day-to-day life".

Was director and screenwriter Richard Linklater hinting even then that this documentary-style study of a love affair was just beginning? Nine years later he made a sequel, Before Sunset. Now, almost another decade on, his cast has hinted they will make a third next year.

That they have not penned a script or started shooting yet should not present a problem. The second film was made in 15 days and was largely improvised. More difficult would be what to call it, now that the dusk and dawn conceit has been exhausted. "Before Death", perhaps.

In any case, haven't audiences already seen enough? Before Sunrise defined an era when it was released in 1995. In it, an American man and a French woman in their early twenties start chatting on a train from Budapest. Both beautiful, passionate and über-intellectual, or at least trying to be, they hit it off and Jesse, (Ethan Hawke) convinces Céline (Julie Delpy) to abandon her journey and join him for a day in Vienna, where he has to catch a plane the next morning.

Nothing much actually happens – they walk, they talk and yes, eventually make love – but somehow this simple tale, told in startlingly realistic long takes and a meandering script in which the couple discuss everything from war to reincarnation, so resonated with young audiences that the film doubled its budget at the box office.

The film played on the seductive theory that life will happen to you when you least expect it. "Sitting for weeks on end looking out of this window has actually been kind of great," Jesse notes sagely. Just 14 when I first saw it with some friends, all greasy hair and teenage pimples, we wondered when we would have the freedom to InterRail around Europe, jumping off at exotic destinations whenever we chose.

In retrospect, though, part of what makes the film so realistic is that it is underwritten with a tangible sense of insecurity and a fear of growing up. As an adult it is striking how young the couple seems, and how naive and pretentious their conversations are – "I hate that the medias are trying to control our minds," insists Céline. "It's a new form of fascism."

At the end, they arrange to meet up in six months. In Before Sunset, which takes place nine years later, we discover that their reunion never happened because Céline's grandmother fell ill.

They meet again though, after Jesse writes a book about their experience, and their connection is still there. Like the first film, the second, though more sombre and reflective, leaves us on tenterhooks. "Baby, you're gonna miss that plane..." sings a still very sexy Céline to a Nina Simone song. "I know," Jesse grins back at her. Fade to black. But will he?

Both films worked because of an exquisitely balanced tension: despite an insistence on realism (Sunset even takes place in real time) our hopefulness that things will somehow work out persists. Time constraints, in the form of Jesse's departure, force the issue to a climax as both films end.

Could a third film really replicate that tension without it seeming contrived? Another will they, won't they plot would feel tired and unlikely. If it turns out that they have ended up together after all, I wonder if the lack of the mystery so integral to its predecessors might be felt too keenly.

There's no doubt that Hawke, Delpy and Linklater are talented enough to produce a fascinating study of ageing dreams, of love after it has been realised. But is the poetry of day-to-day life what we want from this couple?

Like a slow-burning version of François Ozon's 5x2, that gloomiest of marriage studies, might further scrutiny of Jesse and Celine not pollute the magic of their first encounter in the very way they themselves dreaded?

The teenager in me wants their future to remain a question. The answer would be just one long take too far.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment

Will Poulter will play the shape-shifting monsterfilm
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Hollywood

'Whether he left is almost immaterial'TV
Arts and Entertainment

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May

film

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power