Sunday, 31 August 2014
Before Midnight: Questions of Love
Thanks to a little bit of inspiration from my friend Katy Rochelle, I've already reviewed the first two installments of Richard Linklater's Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, both very well done movies. One thing I can say about this director, especially if Boyhood is also something to go by, is that he seems to have a lot of patience and dedication to his projects, as do his actors. Even the Harry Potter films had some casting changes (although the biggest one was necessitated by the death of Richard Harris) and the whole series went through several directors.
Somehow, though, Richard Linklater has been able to make three of these films, each ten years apart, with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy always ready to come back for more (not to mention at the same time, he's been making Boyhood over the past twelve years, also with Hawke). I have no idea how he manages to do it. How can he stay committed to these things? How does he juggle his different projects. This guy might well have set a record for the most patient and dedicated man in the world.
The movie itself, in keeping with the pattern in this series, moves ahead ten years after Before Sunset. Jesse and Celine are living together and entering middle age. They now have two daughters and Jesse is still struggling to maintain a solid relationship with his son (who he rarely gets to see due to the legal actions of his uncooperative ex-wife). This time round the action is being placed in Greece, where Jesse has been invited to stay with several other writers, and he and Celine get some time alone together during which the strength of their relationship is tested.
Where Before Sunrise dealt with young love, and Before Sunset focused on the reunion of two lost lovers, Before Midnight is about the difficulties in the relationship between the two leads. There is a lot more tension between Jesse and Celine compared to the previous movies. Both characters have their own anxieties that interfere with their romance, and have to figure out how to work through it.
This in turn becomes the major driving force of their conversations, as opposed to the more philosophically-bent discussions which came up throughout the previous films (though they do manage to resurface once in a while). The two of them come into conflict numerous times, even breaking out into fights, and yet there is still something of that old romance left. This installment in turn builds on questions established in the previous films, namely what exactly is love and what does it mean to be in love?
The pacing is a bit slower compared to the previous films, but to be fair it never seems to go on for too long, even many of its scenes are noticeably drawn out. This also reflects the aging of the characters. Before Sunrise had a more reckless young couple and thus had a lot more action. With Before Sunset and Before Midnight things start to slow down in keeping with the time that has passed, and how the people we see now are much more passive.
Before Midnight is a worthy follow-up to the previous films in Linklater's trilogy, but what I'm curious about is whether he has any plans to do more. There are definitely plenty of great European locations that could be used for future installments. Switzerland would be a good choice, not to mention a number of Italian cities (Rome has a lot of great landmarks, but I think Venice would make a pretty good backdrop). Even Britain might be able to work (although it might not seem as "exotic" given the people there speak English). The only thing would be what to call it, since they're running out of times of day.
Perhaps in another ten years we'll see Jesse and Celine again, but in the mean time there is an excellent trilogy of films. From the young and passionate love of Before Sunrise to the troubles faced in Before Midnight, there is a clear growth in these two lovers, a fact helped by the extended time in between installments. I have no idea how Richard Linklater has the patience to wait ten years between these films while also balancing all of his other projects, but whatever he does, it seems to be working.