Top 365 Films – #011 – Before Sunrise (1995)

Top 365 Films - Before SunriseDIRECTED BY: Richard Linklater

STARRING: Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy

BUDGET: $2.5m

EARNED (Worldwide): $22.6m




A young man and woman meet on a train in Europe, and wind up spending one evening together in Vienna. Unfortunately, both know that this will probably be their only night together.


Before Sunrise places us onboard a train going from Budapest to Vienna where we an American man named Jesse and a French woman named Céline meeting by chance on it. After a short conversation Jesse believes that there’s a connection, enough to suggest in the spur of the moment that Céline gets off the train with him in Vienna and spend time together until he goes to the airport and by that time she can board the next train back to Paris or if she feels uncomfortable in his company as time progresses, she can ditch him at any point. Céline agrees to this and the two work around the streets of Vienna, talking about their philosophies of life, love and reason for being onboard the train to begin with.


Before Sunrise is the film that Richard Linklater created something special in the early stages of his directorial career as we follow two young adults having a short conversation on a train, realising that there’s a connection between them and deciding to take a last minute chance to embrace this and see where that connection leads as they move through the streets of Vienna, talking about parents, death, former boyfriends and girlfriends, music and even their views on reincarnation. Literally there is no special surprises in this film, what you see of two characters interacting with each over through conversation is exactly what you get. No surprise reveals, no betrayals or melodrama, just a natural authentic flow through the narrative and you know what? That’s what makes the film special. It’s through time and with the sequels that has followed of us following this journey we’ve taken with Jesse and Céline that the film feels extra special as we see where it all began, that spark, where the both have their own naive views of life and love and how they won’t be like their parents, all barriers and fronts that you would have with complete strangers is stripped down as the two have personal conversations almost from the word go. They encounter a few strangers on their travels, from amateur actors, to a palm reader to a street poet and share a moment in a record booth, exchanging glances at one another and then looks away so as the other doesn’t catch them out to having imaginary phone calls with their imaginary best friends, it’s poetically beautiful to watch and easy to get caught up in the interaction between the two of them. The direction from Linklater is terrific, especially in using the city of Vienna as a series of meetings between the two and is captured perfectly with the films final moments as a character that has enriched this love story, as we see the places the characters have gone through on their travels, how empty they appear by sunrise and yet how significant they hold in the memories of the characters for life. The story itself could have ended perfectly with a ‘Would they meet up?’ question lingering for the rest of time if the sequels didn’t exist, though that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying this film and the terrific performances from Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy.



FAVOURITE SCENE: The exchange between Jesse and Céline in the booth listening to the record. No words required as the body language from both of them say enough.

FAVOURITE QUOTE: ‘I believe if there’s any kind of God it wouldn’t be in any of us, not you or me but just this little space in between. If there’s any kind of magic in this world it must be in the attempt of understanding someone sharing something. I know, it’s almost impossible to succeed but who cares really? The answer must be in the attempt.’ – Céline

DID YOU KNOW?: The Ferris wheel Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy ride in Vienna is the same one used in The Third Man (1949) and The Living Daylights (1987). Most of the script was re-written by Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke. Delpy later expressed frustration that they were uncredited for their work. The screenplay was written in eleven days.


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