Before Sunset (2004)
A DIALOGUE ABOUT THE ART OF FILMING DIALOGUE
WITH: RICHARD LINKLATER, ETHAN HAWKE, JULIE DELPY, AND
Nine years ago Richard Linklater, fresh off intoxicating a generation with his 70’s opus Dazed and Confused, set out to make a film that simply had a camera linger above two individuals meeting by chance in Vienna with only a single night to spare. The result was Before Sunrise, where the American Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and the French Celine (Julie Delpy) form a bond over the course of very few hours that speak volumes of youth, idealism, and romance. Between 1995 and today, Linklater has collaborated with Hawke three times, never matching the success of Sunrise, but producing some interesting studies (Waking Life being the most acclaimed). Last year Linklater helmed his first major studio picture with School of Rock. He said he enjoys making films about young people because pre-adulthood is a trying, exhilarating time. “The whole world has sympathy for kids from age one to seventeen”, he says, “but once you hit between nineteen and twenty-two, you’re called a punk and pretentious and a slacker. That’s why I make films about these people.” In theatres now is a rare sequel to a low budget independent style film, which certainly did not need a second act (although it did conclude with a cliffhanger of sorts). However, between Delpy, Hawke, and Linklater, a script was born and once again the couple meets, this time in Paris, this time for far fewer hours (and in real time). While it is up to the audience to decide whether the two are still youthful, idealists, and romantics, we took the opportunity to sit down with the three writers and discuss what it takes to make two movies where talking is the main attraction.
BIO: What was it like collaborating to write a movie? Is each character a reflection of you?
Hawke: We had done this before. We gave each other assignments to write certain bits based on ideas that people had and we would send it over through fax and email. The bulk was done when we were together. Once you had the base plot (Jesse wrote a novel about his night with Celine and is on a writer’s PR trip) it came together.
Delpy: We agreed on everything. No arguments…but I was not thrilled with the ending they chose. When you write, you open up and you learn a lot about each other. There is no BS. On this film I truly learned to collaborate. The best directors need to open up and listen. I had this experience with Barbet Schroeder. I quit writing when I was twenty and working with Ethan and Richard on Before Sunrise got me back into writing.
Hawke: We looked back to the fist film about a week and half before shooting and talked about how young we were. You never think you changed so much.
Linklater: I always hope that all film reflects the director to some extent, but here we were collaborators down the line. I don’t relate to one character more than the other , although I’m probably closer to Celine as far as life style.
BIO: How do you sustain a movie simply based on dialogue?
L: A movie like this looks like it’s hard to pull off, but with me, it’s innate and natural. This is what I care about. I was interested in human dialogue, in what people say and don’t say during a conversation, especially early on in a relationship. Dialogue is all we get from someone at a given moment. That’s the majority of our experience. We don’t live in action films.
BIO: But how often do you find yourself in a truly memorable conversation?
L: We can say “How’s it going”….”fine”. How much time do we really have or do we want to give to this person. How much do we admit or hold back. Do these things matter? Do we respect the person enough to tell them something? If you are reading Dostoevsky and someone’s ask how is it…sometimes you just don’t want to talk. Maybe life isn’t full of interesting conversations, but with film, I wasn’t trying to represent my life, but what I was interested in.
The fact that we filmed in real time allows the dialogue to seem completely natural. In reality, dialogue in real time is a difficult trick. It takes a lot of rehearsal to get it right. Everything needs to be planned to the step. The acting and the filmmaking had to be untraceable. Everything is worked out to the minutest gesture. There are no extras for the DVD. It is a great compliment to make a spontaneous feeling film that is actually scripted by three people.
H: It’s really like a choreographed piece of music. We were not allowed to improvise at all.
BIO: How do you define the love between Celine and Jesse?
L: Without trying to be that romantic, we explore something that is a deep connection. I believe in that. Whether that’s love or something you should just pursue and find out, that’s a bigger life question. Does “love” make someone a better life partner? I don’t know. Love may not have to do with the person you spend your life with. (Jesse has gotten married since Before Sunrise and like Hawke’s real life marriage to actress Uma Thurman, both have faltered since the last film)). Jesse is married and this is the real world. Married men aren’t always happy. There are always two sides to any relationship that’s not working. Ethan said he wrote this film before his problems at home. He said to me it’s weird that he would write it. Like he was foretelling something.
H: This is actually a documentary about my life. (Laughs). I guess, as the saying goes, there is art in life and life in art.
H: Jesse and Celine in the first film are much younger so love means something different. The idealism, at least for Jesse, is slipping away, although he doesn’t want to lose it. The world is disappointing. People make fun of young people and their idealism, but they were the same way at that age.
D: We are all wired a certain way and even if we become a bit stranger over time, we stay the same.
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