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Issue 1764
The student newspaper of Imperial College London

Keep the Cat Free

A Valentine's Day Trio: Richard Linklater's 'Before' series

Are you in the mood for love, but find yourself stuck in lockdown this Valentine's day? Film contributor Eva Borras has just the romantic trilogy for you—Richard Linklater's magnum opus: the 'Before' trilogy. Throughout each film Linklater explores the nuances of love and heartbreak through Jesse and Celine's relationship, which is wrapped up in the passion of an early romance and the heart-rending unpredictability of circumstance.


in Issue 1764


As valentine day approaches, you should consider watching Before Sunrise (1995) , Before Sunset (2004) and Before Midnight (2013). Spread across 18 years, the trilogy tells the story of Jesse and Celine, two people who meet unexpectedly on a train to Vienna. After a desire to start getting to know each other, Jesse convinces Celine to get off the train with him and spend the night wandering and exploring the city, knowing that the next day they will both go their separate ways and probably not see each other again. As surprising as it may be, the first film was in fact inspired by a similar story that happened to Linklater with a woman named Amy Lehrhaupt. Unlike in the movies, the Amy passed away before the first movie was released.

All three movies are built around lengthy and intimate conversations between Celine and Jesse and all have been co-written by Linklater, Hawke and Delpy which in turn elevates the well-crafted script and reality of characters in the movies to a new level, making the viewer emotionally invested in their relationship from the beginning.

During the first film we encounter two early adults trying to figure out their own pursuits and ambitions in life, finding in the other person romance and a connection they haven’t found before. They share their own perspectives on religion, love, and marriage among many other topics. The next morning, they each continue their separate life, agreeing they will meet in the same train station 6 months later. However, it is not until the beginning of the second film that the audience finds out they didn’t actually met because one of them didn’t show up and it is not until 10 years later they see each other again in Paris. As an audience we are witnesses of their encounter and conversation, and by the end of the film the same question remains, will they stay together this time? Again, the answer is in the third movie which shows their life after 10 years.

The trilogy illustrates the complexity of each human being and how relationships evolve as time goes by and conflicts arise

On the surface, it might seem that the movies are simple and not well thought out, yet even the titles of each movie have meaning. In the first movie, Before Sunrise, they spend time until just after sunrise, and the same happens with the sequels with sunset and midnight, in some way representing the curse of their relationship through the years, the beginning, the middle and the end. Each scene has a purpose and contributes very thoughtful ideas and reflections that give an overall message, as Celine herself puts it: ‘I guess when you are young, you believe that you will meet many people with whom you'll connect with, but later in life you realize it only happens a few times.

For me the trilogy illustrates the complexity of each human being and how relationships evolve as time goes by and conflicts arise. The success behind the ‘Before’ trilogy relies in not romanticising and showing a perfect relationship, but rather accepting the flaws of the other person despite conflict. In my opinion, a beautifully crafted masterpiece.

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