The films Before Sunrise and Before Sunset are said to represent the so-called slacker genre. Slackers are individuals in society who have no direction and no reasonable expectation or realistic goals in life. This term is mainly used with Generation X’ers (people born between 1961 and 1981) (Casto, “What’s A Slacker Movie? ”). Slacker movies are films that deal with the ordinary day-to-day life of these people. In Before Sunrise and Before Sunset the characters sense of wandering and the feel of aimlessness is what make them qualify as slacker films.
It is a different story telling, not the classical Hollywood story where boy meets girl, falls in love and lives happily ever after but a real story with perhaps no happy ending or no ending at all. The characters exemplify core traits of Generation X by the way they connect with each other through conversation and ideas rather than action, their uncertainty about their fate and how they can relate to the average audience. Before Sunrise is a film about an American guy Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and a French girl Celine (Julie Delpy) who are on a train headed for Paris.
They both get off in Vienna and spend the day there getting to know each other before Jesse’s return flight home to America. Celine and Jesse begin to wander around the historical city meeting many different and interesting people along the way; fortune tellers, street poets, gypsies, and a bartender (who actually gives them a free bottle of wine). They talk about parents, sex, religion, former relationships, music, death and reincarnation. The theme in this movie is really about all aspects of life.
In one scene where the couple is walking through the Cemetery of the Nameless in Simmering, “the theme of death is evoked when Jesse recalls a vision of his late grandmother [and] Celine confesses to thinking constantly about dying [… ]” (Speed 103). “The people buried in the cemetery have found anonymity in death; by learning to know and understand one another, Celine and Jesse experience and embrace life, suspending their own mortality” (Berardinelli, “Review: Before Sunrise”).
Every moment of their conversation is captured on film “in real time that is, having the events of the narrative develop in the actual time the film is shown” (Wartenberg, “Before Sunset | Philosophy Now”). The viewer is drawn to the film in a more realistic way compared to the Hollywood conventional fare in which the actual time is minimized through editing. Thus, the editing allows more emphasis to be put on what the characters are saying to each other, while connecting with one another and the audience more profoundly.
The sequel, Before Sunset was filmed nine years later in Paris where Jesse (Ethan Hawke) is on a promotion tour of his book This Time. As he is answering questions from the Journalists he spots Celine (Julie Delpy). He briefly answers the Journalists questions so he can quickly meet up with her. As they begin walking through Paris we are drawn to their conversation and the picturesque views of Paris life capturing every moment in real time.
Celine and Jesse have a lot to catch up on. They reach a coffee-shop, continue talking and tell him that she had attended New York University from 1996 to 1999. Jesse is surprised to hear this and tells Celine that just before his wedding day he thought he had seen her at a New York Deli. As they again begin to move throughout the city taking boat-rides and taxis, Jesse confesses to Celine that he wrote the book to record their meeting and time spent together in Vienna.
At the beginning of their conversation they both tell each other that they are fine and as time passes by they begin to feel the reconnection they had in Vienna and begin to disclose what their life has been really like during the last nine years. The difference is that nine years earlier, they were a twenty-something couple both single, which represented the Generation X, people who “grew up in the ‘me generation’ of the [1970s and] 1980s and now recognize that it was not all that it was cracked up to be” (Jochim, “Generation X defies definition”).
Nine years later, and in their thirties and both attached to other people, they realize that they are constrained by the choices they have made and that “getting older means no longer having the chance to realize ones potential through their free choice” (Wartenberg, “Before Sunset | Philosophy Now”). At the end of the film Before Sunset Celine and Jesse are in her apartment listening to music and she begins to dance reminding him about his flight. The camera turns to Jesse where he is seen twirling his wedding ring on his finger. As a viewer the twirling of the wedding ring is representing the uncertainty about his happiness in his marriage.
This situation is very much relatable to the audience as divorce and the struggle of marriage has become a common occurrence in today’s society. Both the films Before Sunrise and Before Sunset are about Celine’s and Jesse’s relationship and their mutual interest in conversation. They spend a lot of time talking about their feelings yet never sincerely act upon them. The films can relate to the audience because they actually address the issue of how difficult it is to find love and be certain of your feelings towards another person.
It also moves away from the easy-going cliche of ‘love at first sight’ seen mostly in Classical Hollywood romances. The complexity of the characters love for each other is seen when Jesse attempts to move on and marries someone else, because as a social norm that is what is expected of him. In the end it seems that Jesse is not as willing to leave Celine as he did in Vienna, maybe realizing that their destiny is their choice, one that they will have to make and not leave up to fate.
Berardinelli, James. “Review: Before Sunrise.” Reelviews Movie Reviews. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Feb. 2011. .
Casto, L.. “What’s a Slacker Movie?.” Reocities Archive, rising from the ashes – RIP Geocities…. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Feb. 2011. .
Jochim, Jennifer. “Generation X defies definition.” Reynolds School of Journalism. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Feb. 2011. .
Speed, Lesley. “Intellect and Utopia in the Films of Richard Linklater.” Journal of Popular Film and Television 1.1 (2008): 98-106. Print.
Wartenberg, Thomas. “Before Sunset | Philosophy Now.” Philosophy Now. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Feb. 2011.