Thursday, 23 August 2012

Review: Before Sunrise/Before Sunset

When I was first asked to review these films, I said no. Now, as you can see here, I’ve changed my mind, but I had a very good reason. I like to talk about two things. Things that are bad, and old TV. To review Before Sunrise or Before Sunset, I’d have to do something different, and that is: review something not only good, not only great, but absolutely brilliant.

If you haven’t heard of these films before, I’m not surprised. I like to think of myself as someone with quite a large and well rounded amount of film knowledge and I hadn’t heard of them until one of my friends recommended them. Before Sunrise is a film written and directed by Richard Linklater. I would tell you he was the director of School of Rock, but while it’s true, it gives a very wrong impression about his style. The film stars Ethan Hawke (of Gattaca and Training Day) and Julie Delpy (of… ok, well she’s not really been in anything massively well known, but don’t let that put you off). The basic story of the film is that Jessie (Ethan) meets Celine (Julie) on a train and they start talking. They immediately form a connection and since Jessie has to stay in Vienna overnight, they both get off the train there and spent the night wandering the streets. They talk and talk about a vast array of different things, meet strange people and slowly fall in love. It’s a story of one night of romance. Before Sunset is the sequel set nine years later where the two meet again and walk the streets of Paris. It follows a similar format, but is a bit darker and sadder than the first film.

Now, if you haven’t seen these films, go and watch them now. Not because I’m going to go into enormous amounts of spoilers, just because they are brilliant. Yes, they sound boring when described but trust me, these are the two best romance films I’ve ever seen. Why? Many reasons. The whole production side of things is very subtle. Now, you might say that sounds like a terrible reason to enjoy a film, but let me explain. There are many, many films and TV shows that rely on fancy camera work and a deeply emotional soundtrack to get their point across. This is not a bad thing. Would you be as impressed if the start of Touch of Evil was just a camera sitting in the back of the car instead of a huge panning shot? Or would you be as pumped up to watch Batman fight the Joker in The Dark Knight if it wasn’t for the music driving you onwards? No, you wouldn’t be, and there, those things work perfectly. However for a small film about two people sharing a very personal time together you don’t want to see these grand spectacles. You just need to hear their voices and see their faces and the beautiful place they’re in and that’s it. It makes it very real, very down to earth and draws you in on a whole different, more emotional level.

Of course if you don’t use these grand techniques, then you have to have something else very special, and in these films that special thing is the script and the leads. The conversations that they have and the way they act is all very natural. The writing really captures a level of sincerity and realism that most other films don’t even attempt at. However these are the kinds of talk that you would have every few weeks, not all in the same night, but this isn’t suppose to be real life, this is a beautiful romantic world. Everything is meaningful, even the calm moments, especially the music booth scene in Sunrise. If you’ve seen these films, no further explanation is required, but if you haven’t I have only one way to describe it. It’s the story of an experience that you wish you’d had yourself. The characters are real enough to be believable, but have this extra edge that you wish you had. It’s all like a magical scenario that you imagine yourself in.

I could talk forever about the beautiful locations, the fantastic script and how much I am always amazed by the acting of the brilliant Ethan Hawke and the lovely Julie Delpy, but I’m going to stop here. Those who’ve experienced these films already know how wonderful they truly are. And to anyone reading this who hasn’t, I won’t talk anymore, because I went into these films knowing very little about them, all I knew was they were apparently good and that they were romantic with lots of talking. With that knowledge, I watched and loved them, and I advise you to do that same.

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