16th June: Before Sunrise (Richard Linklater, 1995)

This post contains spoilers.

On this date in film, Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Céline (Julie Delpy) spend the night in Vienna together in Before Sunrise.

The pair are travelling on a train from Budapest to the Austrian capital. Jesse plans to catch a flight to America and Céline is stopping off to visit her grandmother before returning to university in Paris. Jesse takes an immediate interest in Céline and convinces her to spend time with him in Vienna. 

He can’t afford a hotel for the night before his return flight the next morning, so they wander the city streets sightseeing and chat about love and life. They grow increasingly comfortable with each other and an attraction forms. The next morning at the train station they admit their feelings for one another and, conscious that they may never see each other again, arrange to meet in this spot six months from now.

Linklater took inspiration from James Joyce’s opus, Ulysses, whose events take place on the same date. His script and direction allow us to observe these characters – their interests, passions, foibles – in a pseudo-verité fashion. And we genuinely root for them. The film’s critical and commercial success spawned two follow-ups, Before Sunset (2004) and Before Midnight (2013), demonstrating that audiences craved to follow Jesse and Céline’s love story through to the end. The trilogy also makes an intriguing companion piece to Linklater’s recent film Boyhood (2014) where characters mature, age and develop before our eyes.

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