Standard Issue writers revisit an album/film/book/TV series to see if it’s stood the test of time. This week, Ruth Bratt finds the sun has set on Before Sunrise.
What and why: Richard Linklater film where Ethan Hawke meets Julie Delpy on a train and they decide to wander around Vienna all night before he gets his plane back to America and she goes back to Paris. And they fall in love. Sort of.
It’s 20 years since the film’s release and Linklater’s Boyhood has been nominated for an Oscar. Before Sunrise was the second film that brought him to my attention, after Dazed and Confused. Which I think I can still quote verbatim and gave me my excuse for why I didn’t become a human rights lawyer – “I realised I didn’t like the people I was going to be representing… I want to be a dancer!” – and the second film I lusted after Ethan Hawke in. The first was, obvs, Dead Poets’ Society. Which I think I can still quote verbatim.
Rated or dated: I was 19 in 1995 when this came out and wrote this about it in my diary: “Went to see Before Sunrise with Simie. It was JOY! One of the best films I’ve seen for ages. Nothing happened… but it’s wonderful. The dialogue and the situation are so right. I so want something like that to happen to me. It was romantic and funny and apt and right. It made me think of how I feel about S…”
OK, no further, it gets (more) embarrassing. So I loved it. Please bear in mind that at this point in my life, I truly believed that Interview With a Vampire was the greatest film ever made and managed, in my mind, to turn a man’s offer of sex in a hotel into him thinking I was an AWFUL FAT TROLL (oh the self-esteem issues…).
So, as much as it pains me to say so – DATED. It’s tedious. When I was 19, I wanted to watch 20-year-olds endlessly talking about life as if they understood it, but as a 39-year-old the talk is empty, meaningless and utterly banal. It’s like listening to teenagers on the bus. (“Did you watch CBB? Drama went down!”) When I was 19, I thought I was Proust, but I had the insight and emotional maturity of Just Seventeen magazine. So does Before Sunrise.
To be fair to it, there are some good bits, mostly when they’re just looking at each other and not talking. That’s some good acting, but the dialogue is really clunky and self-aware. NO-ONE TALKS LIKE THAT! And it’s so cliched: she talks about death and stares for 45 minutes at a Seurat painting; she is so DEEP. He asks her questions about her first sexual feelings and talks about seeing his grandmother’s ghost; he’s quirky and DEEP.
There is one great bit where they bump into some amateur actors who ask them to come to their play about a cow that acts like a dog. I got excited about that, but then they never go to the play. At the end they say, “Oh we never went to that play…” I know you didn’t and I was waiting for it THE WHOLE FILM! Why wouldn’t you go to that play?
I was sad it wasn’t good anymore. But maybe the film hasn’t dated. Maybe I have. I no longer want to get on a train and meet an interesting stranger. Because I am happy, sitting in my flat with a man I know who has never once asked me about death or taken a picture of me by staring at my face for an uncomfortably long time, but would definitely take me to see an amateur play about a cow who thinks it’s a dog.2721 Views
Ruth is an improviser, comedian, actor, writer and the short half of double act Trodd en Bratt. She is rapidly becoming a middle class cliche who likes to bake and knit. Ruth is in Showstopper! The Improvised Musical currently in Edinburgh and about to embark on a West End run. www.theshowstoppers.org