A couple of my all time favourite films are "Before Sunrise" and "Before Sunset", starring Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke. For those of you who don't know, these two films are set ten years apart. The first, "Before Sunrise", sketches the two protagonists who, in their early twenties, meet on a train travelling across Europe and, strongly attracted to one another, alight together in Vienna. They have a few hours in one another's company--before sunrise--before Hawke has to board a plane back to the States.
They spend this time wandering the streets of Vienna, getting to know one another, weaving in and out of music shops, parks, and bars. At the end of their few hours together, Hawke sees Delpy onto a train home and they hurriedly agree to meet again in exactly a year's time in the very same place (no texting or Facebook in those days!).
"Before Sunset" catches up with the couple ten years later in Paris when Hawke is doing a book signing at Delpy's favourite bookshop. Delpy turns up at the signing and surprises Hawke (predictably, they didn't manage to meet again in Vienna). Both are unhappy--Hawke trapped in a loveless marriage and Delpy still seeking that elusive perfect relationship.
This time they wander the streets of Paris and talk. The attraction is still there. The film closes with Hawke in Delpy's apartment, laughing, already having missed his plane back to the States and his wife and son.
What I love about these two films is the dialogue and the oh-so-recognisable depiction of how people change over time. In "Before Sunrise" you can really see the couple becoming closer and more relaxed with one another as they talk about anything and everything. In true twenty-something fashion they cover the 'big' issues -- the environment, women's lib, the nature of love, reincarnation. They are open, optimistic. They have nothing to lose and everything ahead of them.
By the time we meet them again, they have lost that optimism. They have become jaded; they have acquired some hard edges. They have come to realise that life is not that easy and that whatever they thought at twenty-one, life is no longer their oyster. They can still talk, though, but this time their conversation is more direct, more gritty. The romanticism of early youth has dissipated.
I recently liberated my Before Sunrise/Sunset box set (yes, sad, I know!) and watched the films again. I still love them and my husband and I got talking about what might have happened to Hawke and Delpy next. I did a quick bit of internet research the next day and was delighted to see that another film has just been released--"Before Midnight"--in which we meet the couple another ten years on, in their early forties. "Before Midnight" went straight on my LoveFilm list and I can't wait to see it!
I wonder whether there will be another film in another ten years, when the couple are in their early fifties--and what the title of that one might be?!