Before Sunset

On a particularly sombre Tuesday evening, I went surfing on the net for a movie that I watched a couple of years back and have cherished since. It went by the name Before Sunset and was one of the most beautiful things I had seen in ages. Like most other movies I watched in campus, this too was a sleeper hit that very few mainstream movie-goers had even heard about, let alone watch it.

The movie is a real-life sequel to it’s equally excellent predecessor, Before Sunrise (BS). On a purely objective level, I think the movie is an achievement in it’s attempt to build a 77-minute movie involving just two protagonists – Jesse and Celine. In the sequel, they meet accidentally after 9 years (the prequel, incidentally, was also released 9 years earlier) in Paris. 9 years back they had met in Vienna, where they spent one romantic day and signed off for the night, promising to meet each other six months later. They want to give serendipity a chance. But, unlike the movie Serendipity itself, the makers of BS were much more realistic and ensured the fairy-tale ended there. The meeting never happened.

Now, they are here, nine years hence in Paris at Jesse’s book-release. Lives have changed, cities have changed and the world itself has changed. You get to see all this as you hear them talking about all of it – themselves, their relationships, career and the world in general. For the rest of the movie, it is just Jesse and Celine, walking all around Paris, conversing all the time. Though the movie appears to be just a conversation, the story moves so subtly, so thinly in the background that I caught myself hoping for a romantic ending, with the duo getting back together.

It is filled with beautiful vignettes of life captured as they’ve grown older from that care-free night when every dream, fantasy seemed a certainity. When it seemed nights like the one in Vienna would happen again. When it appeared the whole world’s as beautiful as Vienna itself, with it’s waterways and bridges. When pragmatism was for the ‘oldies’ and that’s why, they make a romantic promise to meet six months hence, rather than exchange phone numbers. When fate and future were events they moulded.

The proverbial cherry on the cream was the beautiful ending. They walk up to Celine’s apartment, where Jesse convinces her to sing one song before he has to catch his flight. She starts off a waltz that goes like this:

“Let me sing you a waltz
Out of nowhere, out of my thoughts
Let me sing you a waltz
About this one night stand

You were for me that night
Everything I always dreamt of in life
But now you’re gone
You are far gone
All the way to your island of rain

It was for you just a one night thing
But you were much more to me
Just so you know
I hear rumors about you
About all the bad things you do
But when we were together alone
You didn’t seem like a player at all

I don’t care what they say
I know what you meant for me that day
I just wanted another try
I just wanted another night
Even if it doesn’t seem quite right
You meant for me much more
Than anyone I’ve met before

One single night with you little Jesse
Is worth a thousand with anybody

I have no bitterness, my sweet
I’ll never forget this one night thing
Even tomorrow, another arms
My heart will stay yours until I die

Let me sing you a waltz
Out of nowhere, out of my blues
Let me sing you a waltz
About this lovely one night stand”  

She is accompanied by her guitar, a pathos-filled voice, a shy and laughing face and Jesse’s stunned, yet sad, look. You watch expectantly, hoping to see a conclusion. Celine, in the closing scenes, reminds Jesse he’s going to miss the flight and that’s that.

It’s an absolute masterpiece of a movie, more so when you consider the fact that all that the director employed in this piece of art were two actors, one city locale and an extremely tight screenplay.

As a toast to a blue-ey evening, (I hate to include all of you to partake in my cup of sorrow but..) these lines ring with a truthfulness about them now:

Jesse: Oh, God, why didn’t we exchange phone numbers and stuff? Why didn’t we do that?
Celine: Because we were young and stupid.
Jesse: Do you think we still are?
Celine: I guess when you’re young, you just believe there’ll be many people with whom you’ll connect with. Later in life, you realize it only happens a few times. (Emphasis mine)
Jesse: And you can screw it up, you know, misconnect.”

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Before Sunset

9 thoughts on “Before Sunset

  1. Not now… Have loaned it to someone! The ending’s left to, as the cliche goes, the viewer’s imagination…….. :) I believe he misses the flight though… they are too much in love to drift apart again!

  2. @parijata: Thanks for reading :) Yes it’s certainly a movie to be not missed. It’s romantic without being mushy….

    PS: parijata…. nice name! it’s a kannada word right? what does it mean?

  3. Thanks.
    Parijata is a flowering tree with small white-orange flowers.
    It is a Sanskrit word, and means ‘fully evolved’. (Got this info from the Sanskrit dictionary)

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