Monday, April 24, 2006

Before Sunrise -R (1995) and Before Sunset -R (2004)

We remember our first love affairs. I don’t mean the girl we kissed in second grade playing spin the bottle, or the boy in high school we made out with, or even the college co-ed we lost our virginity too. We of course remember those events too. I mean the first people we really fell in love with. These events hold special memories. Sandra Leiblum and Judith Sachs in their book, “Getting the Sex You Want,” says this person makes us feel attractive, makes us feel loved and understood, appreciates our mind and desires our body. This person listens when we talk and we want their opinions. We tell them nearly everything. The conversation is as intimate as the erotic touch. This is particularly true when we are young and it happens for the first time. We often focus on our first time having sex as a sort of benchmark to adulthood. Perhaps a more important marking is when we first shared our soul.

Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy play Jesse and Celine in a two-part love story about a first love affair. The story (Before Sunrise) begins as two young people meet on a train in Europe and fall in love. The first movie is about their meeting and the 12 hours that they spend together. The second movie (Before Sunset) is 9 years later and follows the couple’s reunion, again for about 12 hours. The two films were produced exactly 9 years apart with the same actors, who have aged in real life 9 years. This fact, though unique, is not the reason to see these two films. The reason to see these movies is to again experience falling in love.

In both films Jesse and Celine talk. They talk a lot. They talk about religion and then talk about their first experience with sex. They talk about food and then talk about deaths in their families. They talk about reincarnation and then talk about what makes them afraid. They talk but also listen. As in the near cult film, “A Dinner with AndrĂ©,” the couple takes each other’s comments seriously. They take each other seriously. Their love grows not from physical passion but from conversation and before sunrise this love grows to erotic passion. Before Sunset follows the couple 9 years later. They again meet in Europe and spent 12 hours together. Events repeat themselves. This time the talk is about their 9 years apart. They talk about politics and their marriages. They talk about the other loves in their lives and how life would have been different if they would of married each other. They fall is love again.

The films reminded me of the intense conversation in my first love affairs. These affairs do not always end in marriage and sometimes do not even include sex. They do include erotic passion. The memories of conversation are what make the affairs important, and it is particularly memorable when we are young. It is the first time we explore another’s souls as we explore another’s body.

These two films are wonderful. They will remind you of the joys and intensity of your first experiences with love. The dialog is what makes these films special. The two stars Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy wrote the screenplay of Before Sunset. It feels unscripted, natural and free flowing. It is also technically brilliant. We walk with Jesse and Celine for 7 minutes of uninterrupted conversation through the streets of Vienna. Before Sunrise and Before Sunset are films that should not be missed.