Tuesday, July 17, 2018

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Posted at: Feb 11, 2018, 12:54 AM; last updated: Feb 11, 2018, 12:54 AM (IST)

Before Forever

If you are planning to binge watch something this Valentine’s Day, let it be the love trilogy, which goes deeper than the sugar-coated surface of romance
Before Forever
Reality check: A still from Before Midnight, which explores the changing dynamics of a long-term intimate relationship

Chanakya Grover

No other day in recent history has propagated the idea of love as much as the Valentine’s Day; a day which became associated with romantic love in the 14th century. Cut to the present and it becomes apparent that that notion of romance has only intensified with time. One of the most popular vehicles that has carried this notion consistently over the years has been the movies. They have portrayed romance in all its glory with the promise of ‘Happily ever after,’ much to the chagrin of the realists for whom it all just seems too made-up.

However, there are filmmakers who take on the challenge, every now and then, of portraying characters, situations and relationships that go deeper than the sugar-coated surface of romance, thus, giving us a movie which we can truly relate to and possibly learn from. The Before trilogy is one such critically acclaimed classic that warrants a mandatory viewing by anyone who has ever thought of being in a romantic relationship. Directed by the extremely patient and highly incisive Richard Linklater, and starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy as Jesse and Celine, the three movies take the viewer on a journey of a relationship spanning 18 years.

Its first instalment, Before Sunrise (1995), begins in Vienna with a chance encounter of two strangers on a train. They get to talking and decide to follow an impulse, not knowing that it would change the course of their lives. Now, while the plot may seem commonplace at first, what sets it apart is the spontaneity of its characters combined with a crisp and fresh screenplay, and meaningful dialogues. You find yourself walking the streets of Vienna with two young and curious souls slowly drawing closer to each other while trying to maintain their distance. What makes the viewing experience so immersive is that whatever’s happening on screen is presented as happening in real time. So, you live every minute of the movie as the characters do, sans any flashbacks. As the movie progresses, you cannot help but wonder what will become of those two, given how they live on different continents. You get closer to the answer to that question in the next instalment of the series.

Before Sunset (2004) is set nine years later in Paris where Jesse and Celine meet again. That they’ve changed a lot as compared to their younger selves, and so has their relationship, is quite evident from the first scene of this movie. Their general demeanour is different, so is their physical appearance, and their conversations are more measured. A lot has changed in their personal lives as well. However, you can still sense the comfort they share with each other even if it is restrained and that is what makes it so relatable.They travel the streets of Paris in the limited time they have, squeezing in every possible second they can manage, to converse before Jesse’s flight takes off. This movie takes their relationship forward but leaves one with an all-too-real note of uncertainty, something, it seems, the director doesn’t want us to forget.

Before Midnight (2013) which is set in Greece, also happens nine years later with the same two characters who have aged nine more years. What this movie explores is the changing dynamics of a long-term intimate relationship and how challenging it can be to reconcile one’s expectations and aspirations with one’s reality and that of one’s partner. It shows how the conversations between two people can turn sour with time and how their closeness can make them question their life choices, something most of us go through but few of us ever acknowledge. Nevertheless, the director tells us that working through the differences is a possibility but it takes work and it’s not always pretty. The three films make one of the best trilogies of contemporary cinema.


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