Yesterday was a day that I had been anticipating for 9 years. Waiting for, longing for, hoping for. Nobody, myself included, ever knew if the day would actually arrive, or if it was just a pipe dream. You've already read the 'Spoiler Alert' so I am sure you will know that I am talking about Before Midnight. The new collaboration between director Richard Linklater and writers/actors Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. 9 years after Before Sunset, 18 years after Before Sunrise, Jesse and Celine are reunited on screen for a third time (Well, technically the fourth time if you count their cameo in Waking Life in 2001). Let me tell you, 9 years is a hell of a wait...
In 2004 seventeen year old Martin was just getting really into movies. I'd always loved movies but it was at that age, after seeing Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, that I really began devouring them. Seventeen year old Martin was also a hopeless romantic, so when he read the glowing reviews for this little movie called Before Sunset his curiosity was piqued. I'm going to try to stop talking about my seventeen year old self in the third person now because it just feels weird. Haha. Anyway, I was intrigued by the synopsis and the five star reviews and decided the pick up the DVD box set of Before Sunrise and Before Sunset...
HOLY JESUS. It isn't often that a movie can just fucking blow me away but Before Sunrise did just that.
For anyone unaware of the story; American boy Jesse meets a French girl Celine, both 23, on a train bound for Paris. He is getting off at Vienna to catch a flight back to America the next morning. He convinces her to get off the train with him in Vienna and spend the night checking out the city. Inevitably they fall in love but decide to be "adult and rational" about the likelihood of a long distance relationship actually working. They agree that this night will be their only night together. At the very last minute they decide 'fuck it, "adult and rational" is stupid' and arrange to meet again in Vienna in exactly six months time. They then go their separate ways and the viewer is left to wonder what happened six months later.
That was what I wanted. What hopeless romantic seventeen year old me longed for. I guess it is what everyone wants, to meet someone and truly connect with them. If that someone just so happens to be French and beautiful then fuckin' A! After watching Sunrise for the first time I couldn't even bring myself to watch the sequel straight away. I remember the film finished at around 1am and I just sat outside and smoked a cigarette, staring out into the night. Letting it all sink in. I must admit that If I had seen the film 9 years previously when it came out and I was left with that ambiguous ending I would have been fucking pissed. I could have watched the sequel right then if I wanted, some motherfuckers had been waiting 9 years! Poor bastards.
I watched the sequel the next night. Set 9 years later in Paris, France. Did they meet six months later? Are they together now? Did they get together and then break up and now they hate each other? I won't spoil the film for anyone that hasn't seen it, but I am of the opinion that the second part is even more magical than the first. It is grounded in a reality that the first one lacks. Sunrise has a more dream-like quality to it whereas Sunset has a maturity and sincerity which never fails to captivate me. It is every bit as beautiful and poignant as Sunrise.
I realised yesterday that I am now just three years older than the characters were in the first film yet for some reason the sequel always resonates with me more than the first. Odd.
I watch those two films at least once a year. Always an evening a part. I can pretty much quote whole scenes line for line, I know the characters better than I know some real-life friends, and yet the movies never bore me. Ever. I am always enthralled, always in the moment. About a year ago there were rumblings on the internet that a third part was being filmed. I nearly fucking wept with joy. I had always hoped for another one but the second one ends so beautifully that I just didn't know if it would ever happen.
The rumours were confirmed. They shot part three in Summer 2012 in Greece. It was all kept very hush hush and for that I am glad. During the build up to the film's release it has been so fucking difficult to avoid it. I don't want to see the trailer, or read reviews, or read interviews with the actors or the director. I don't want to see screenshots and clips from the film. I JUST WANT THE FILM. I am going to see it regardless of what it is about. It could literally just be Jesse and Celine sat in a room together, not even talking, just reading a fucking book or whatever and I'd watch it. I'd watch the shit out of it.
I managed to avoid everything. Greece, 9 years later. That was all I needed. Yesterday, June 30th 2013, I finally got to see the film. I travelled all the way up to a tiny independent cinema in North London to see it. It was the only cinema I could find that was showing all three films back to back. So not only did I get to see the new film, I got to see the first two up on the big screen. I am not exaggerating when I say that it was definitely one of the best days of my life.
I was almost as excited about seeing the first two in a cinema as I was about seeing the new film. It was kind of like seeing them for the first time. Throughout the first one I could not stop smiling. Just the whole way through. Massive shit eating grin. Towards the end of the second one, during the final scene in Celine's apartment, I was fucking sweating and my heart was beating out of my chest. I knew what was coming, I was waiting for that line "Baby, you are gonna miss that plane!". HOLY MOTHER OF GOD. For a film that I have seen over 10 times to still have such an intense physical reaction on me was pretty damn amazing and a true testament to the quality of the filmmaking.
Then came part three. Before Midnight. I was equally as nervous as I was excited about seeing it. I knew it was going to be quite different to the first two, but my heart could not take it if it didn't have a somewhat happy ending. What had they been up to for the past 9 years? Did they stay together? Did he miss that plane? FUCKINEEDTOKNOWRIGHTNOW... but... but... Fuck. I'll take another ambiguous ending, just please don't let Jesse and Celine hate each other.
I am happy to report that the film did not disappoint. As if it ever could have. Jessie and Celine are now 41, older, jaded, cynical. It is a belly of the beast study of a relationship. The thing with the typical romance film is that you tend to only get the good part; the magical, fun, sappy, falling in love part, and then you get the fade out. You don't get to see what happens afterwards. This film gives you that. If the first two films gave seventeen year old Martin unrealistic expectations about love, then this film brought him crashing back down to Earth with a bang. Well, I mean, life kind of already did that to me "the hard way", but this film accentuated the point.
Relationships are tough. No matter how much of a whirlwind or how passionate the beginning of a relationship is, shit gets real. In fact I'd go as far to say that the more intense and passionate the beginning of a relationship makes it even harder as it goes on. There is no possible way to maintain that shit. Relationships are about compromise and sacrifice and understanding. Nobody is perfect. Like I say, Martin learned "the hard way" but these movies still give me a little hope. Hope that maybe one day I won't be such a fuck up. Haha.
The "cute meet" of a boy and a girl on a train in Europe may be the stuff of fantasy but that kind of thing must happen in real life. It must do. Fuck, that kind of connection can come from anywhere and fucking blind side you. A buddy of mine met the love of his life on Chat Roulette. CHAT ROULETTE! Fuck, one day you could be casually Googling 'hipster blog' and then a year later find yourself believing in things that you never thought were possible.
I don't know if there will be another entry in the Before... series. I hope there is. I guess I'll have to wait another 9 years to find out. 2022 by my calculations. I'll be 35 by then. Fuck.