February 18, 2005
I'm probably one of the last people who meant to see Richard Linklater's Before Sunset and never got around to it. Finally caught a screening last night.
Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy reprise their roles as Jesse and Celine from Before Sunrise. I was the same age as these characters and I thought it was interesting to see what's happened to them since. In the beginning we are given flashbacks - moments from the previous film - interspersed with the current time of the story. It's startling to see Hawke's face then and now. He's so scrawny and gaunt; he looks haunted. Julie Delpy seems much as she was, but more womanly now, and fragile.
Between the two films it's clear that Jesse is more of a stylistic talker - he puts out phrases and ideas to provoke and to entertain, whether or not he really believes the thing he's saying. Celine has always been more of a direct speaker, whether the subject is serious or more light-hearted. She wants to engage you, to communicate; she speaks sincerely regardless of the relative importance of the topic.
Jesse isn't so pompous as he used to be, and Celine has grown, using her convictions to do something meaningful in the world, even though her personal life, as well as Jesse's, leave much to be desired. Or rather, during the nine years until they meet again, much was left desired - unresolved, unfinished. At the end, we leave them without resolution, but it's clear that during this afternoon they spend walking around Paris, their one day in Vienna affected them much more than they realized, even at the time when they were "young and stupid," as Celine says, and they recognized something extraordinary between them. When they still had great romantic notions about the world and such optimism for the future.
I think it's time to revisit Linklater's Waking Life, in part because there is a brief moment where we see Jesse and Celine, clearly together - well at least for that time. It's hard to know whether what we see is even true. But I also think that the film, through its exploration of the many ways of seeing and living life, might also be a comfort, given how I'm wrestling with such thoughts and questions now.