PLEASE DO NOT READ THIS IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN BOTH FILMS!
I wrote this for another site about our favorite films of all time. This is mine.
Great art becomes part of one's life. It effects us in ways we cannot describe. We carry it will us, like an emotional touchstone. In some cases we measure our lives against it. For me, no painting, sculpture, novel, or film can measure up to Before Sunset
, in this sense. Celine and Jesse's relationship has become part of my life in the same way as my own, and those of my closest friends.
I feel bad for those who did not view this film, and it's prequel Before Sunset
, when they first came out. I dont think it can ever become part of you, like it has for me, if you did not see the original as a 20-something, wait 10 years for the sequel, and see it as a 30-something. Your life must parallel Celine and Jesse's.
This is the only film I love unconditionally. I cannot see flaws in it. Perhaps they are there, but they are forever invisible to me.
The film opens with its ending, a structure which I only began to appreciate on multiple viewings.
It opens with Jesse on the last stop of a book tour. He has written a novel about he and Celine's first encounter. During the question and answer period a reporter asks him why his books ends on an ambiguous note. He replies that it is a litmus test which will tell the reader whether they are a cynic or a romantic. This is same test we are put to while watching the film. In fact, this may be one of the greatest such tests ever put on film.
As he is answering questions, he is stopped suddenly when Celine appears. He stammers, unable to keep his train of thought; unable to conceal his fear and joy at seeing her.
They spend the next hour walking around Paris, in real time. At first they are both coy but she wastes little time getting to the question we all need to ask; "Did you show up Vienna?". He answers no. We feel both saddened but a little relived. We cant decide which is better; them having not met again, or them having met and having a doomed relationship.
Celine pretends she is not a romantic. She covers herself with cynicism. She pretends to have forgotten that night. When she says she cant remember it, you can see Jesse deflate. How can she not remember it? It meant so much to us
They take a boat ride on the Seine and Jesse tells my favorite apocryphal story of all time about how the Germans were ready to blow up the major landmarks in Paris. They had the Notre Dame Cathedral wired, leaving behind a soldier to push the button, but he couldn't do it. It was simply too beautiful.
Slowly their mutual walls begin to fall. They stop lying and expose themselves. She wants to touch him so badly but cant do it.
She finally gets up the courage to hug him, covering her desire with a friendly gesture.
"I wanna see if you stay together or if you dissolve into molecules."
The films ends with my favorite final scene and line of all time.
"Baby, you are going to miss that plane"
" I know"
We are not told if they get back together, but of course they do. They must, for I am a romantic, and this relationship means too much to me for it not to succeed.
Some people have seen these films and suggest that Jesse is too pompous or Celine is too neurotic. These are some of the very qualities that make me love them both. They are real. They are not perfect. They are human. Too love someone is too love the good and the bad. Sure Jesse is pompous but he is also intelligent, loving, charming and a romantic. Celine may be neurotic but she is also tender, funny, and filled with passion.
The idea of a third film scares some but I want to meet up again with Celine and Jesse in the same way I want to see an old lover or friend. Their absence lessens me.