Tell, don’t show
Picture this: a movie, stripped of everything commercial and excessive that makes up the typical blockbuster. A movie that jumps out of the screen and connects with the smallest details of the human mind... all through one extended conversation.
‘Before Sunrise’ tells the story of two people; Celine, a French student at La Sorbonne, and Jesse, an American with a Eurail pass. The twenty-year-olds meet on a train, and form a soulmate-like connection over one night in Vienna.
The director (Richard Linklater) and the actors (Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke) teamed up to write the script. They took the motto “Show, don’t tell” and flipped it on it’s head. The characters just talk. About parents, religion, music, death, and everything in between. They get to know each other.
The film feels like it’s playing in real time, like a documentary or improvisation that never gets boring or pretentious. Linklater structures conversations and arguments the way they’d actually play out. The dialogue isn’t sugar-coated (or Hollywood-coated), and doesn’t overstay its welcome.
For example, when Jesse first approaches Celine, he tries to convince her to get off the train with him by getting her to think of that moment as time travel. “Alright, alright, think of it like this: jump ahead ten, twenty years”.
He urges her to picture a scenario in which she’s older, married, and with a husband she doesn’t like that much. She’d start to think about all the other guys that had been in her life and what would’ve happened if she’d chosen them instead. He chimes in to say, “Well, I’m one of those guys!” and that getting to know him would be a favor to both her and her husband, because when she realizes he’s “totally unmotivated, totally boring” and she made the right choice in choosing her husband, she’ll live at peace. (It’s simple, but genius.)
Then there’s Vienna, a city that’s shown in a raw, beautiful, non-touristic way. From parks to ferris wheels to street corners, the city comes alive in ‘Before Sunrise’. The people they encounter: amateur actors, a poet, a palm reader... it’s all realistic.
It feels possible, because it is.
In every argument, every kiss and every pause, Linklater buries an ounce of truth.
And yet, the Before Trilogy (Sunrise, Sunset and Midnight– all filmed within 9 year gaps and in different European cities), is one of the lowest grossing trilogies of the history of cinema.
Blockbusters (or “popcorn movies”) are fun, and sometimes they can be really good, but I really, really encourage you to support independent filmmaking. It’s more of a passion project than a profit-driven one, and the stories can feel much... closer.