When I was a teenage girl, one of the many movie posters that hung on my wall was Before Sunrise. The slow-moving romantic tale of two strangers who meet on a train and decide to spontaneously spend the night walking around Vienna had a profound effect on me in my teenage years.
I hadn’t travelled much then, really at all, and this was, for me, the idealised encounter I dreamed of having on a Eurail train ride around Europe, something one day I’d hopefully do myself. The film seemed to capture the feeling travel seemed to promise to a girl who had never left Australia; romance, freedom, choice, connection.
The follow up film, Before Sunset, came at a different time in my life, and showed something different- the characters had grown up, become a little more realistic, disappointed and cynical, but had also not abandoned entirely their dreams of romance, love, adventure and hope. Most of all, that chemistry and understanding and comfort they and the audience had felt in the first film was there in the second; the characters had grown, and the audience had grown with them.
The hopefulness- that promise that there was something more out there- some simple magical ability to pick up and be comfortable with those we love despite the passage of time, flooded through the film and onto the screen. When I saw Before Sunset at the cinema I was in my 20s, and a little lost and hopeless in a bad relationship I’d fully committed to, the film filled me once again with hope (along with another whopping urge to visit Paris).
The ambiguous ending of Before Sunset- similar to the first film- once again spoke to the heart of the films premise: if you’re a cynic, you believe they didn’t work out. If you were a romantic, you sincerely hoped that Jesse would miss that plane and stay with Celine.
17 years since the first film, and a good 15 years since I saw it as a teenage girl, I’m able to look back on the film and see the effect it had on me. The girl who’d never been on an airplane and dreamed of meeting the love of her life in Europe is now a woman with serious frequent flyer points, a career as a travel writer living in Europe and a happy relationship (just like Jesse in Before Sunrise, on a whim I invited a guy I didn’t know all that well to come “check out the town” and it worked out pretty well).
Over this summer, rumours began to swirl they were doing another Before film, rumours that were swatted away by the actors and director. But it piqued my interest again, and over the summer we watched the Before movies again, and last weekend in Paris I picked up the Before screenplays from Shakespeare & Co, which featured in the last film, drinking in the words as a train whipped me back across Europe to my home in Holland.
Just last night, the rumours were confirmed: not only will there be a new film, called Before Midnight, but it has also just wrapped principal photography in Greece.
The news fills me up with excitement and a little fear. The Before movies are special to a lot of people, and the second one was executed so brilliantly that I honestly don’t know how it can live up to the bittersweet brilliance of Before Sunset.
But I can’t wait to find out. I have goosebumps at the thought of this film. Set in Greece, very little is known about the plot, save that it stars both of them and it is set nine years on from their meeting in Paris.
And here’s the thing: I trust the director, the actors and writers. I know they will deliver something special, and I’m grateful that they’ll allow me a chance to take one, and possibly final peek into the world of Jesse and Celine. Although I don’t need them to inspire me anymore, it’ll be like catching up with old friends.