There are movies out there can sustain a long legacy, longer then audiences and even the filmmakers would even expect. When writer/director Richard Linklater crafted the story of Jesse and Celine (Ethan Hawke & Julie Delpy) that we first saw in “Before Sunrise” we saw magic in these wayward travelers who have to max out their time together before they get pulled into different directions. In “Before Sunset” we saw them reunite by pure chance and wonder if they should spend more than just a night together, and after that Linklater would be the first to admit that they probably won’t be coming back to these characters but now years later, exactly 9 years between Sunrise & Sunset and now another 9 between Sunset & Before Midnight which delighted audiences in theatres this summer is now available on DVD, Blu-Ray and On Demand. I got the chance to spend a few minutes with writer/director Richard Linklater and ask him why these characters keep coming back around for him and what makes them special for him in his filmmaking career.
Dave Voigt: I obviously love the film and the Blu-Ray looks simply fantastic and while I was going through the special features something you said really did stood out, even though I admittedly already knew it. You said that after the first film (Before Sunrise) you never really had a plan for these characters yet years audiences keep welcoming them back with open arms. Why do you think that Jesse & Celine have become this cinematic standard for love with a generation?
Richard Linklater: Yeah, I’m not sure if that is across the board even though we do have a small yet dedicated fan base of people who have gotten to catch all three films during their adult life and it makes for a fairly unique parallel to experience things along with Jesse & Celine. But there is a connection because Jesse & Celine really aren’t extraordinary in any way, they are actually quite ordinary in their own way and more of the statistical norm. It’s satisfying because people can really relate to them.
DV: They have evolved from being characters in a film to being people that we are just watching and especially in this movie from audience perspective it is less about watch a story and more of simply viewing a slice of their lives. How conscience of that are you in the process while you are working?
RL: I think that we try to create a tone of reality throughout the films, just like you are dropping into their lives on three separate occasions. I think that when you see a great performance by somebody but it is clearly a story and a construct, you think to yourself that you like it but you don’t necessarily relate to it in any kind of a personal way. I think that the kind of acting that both Ethan (Hawke) and Julie (Delpy) were going for here is like you don’t even think that they are acting, they are just friends of yours that you have this instant access to. It could be as constructed as every other movie ever made, but you try and break down that wall and accept that it is reality and embrace that tone.
DV: The film has some truly extended takes, as they are driving in the car at the beginning and in the hotel towards the end for the love/fight scene that I can imagine you aren’t running though too many times. Obviously all three of you work on the dialogue and the story together but how precious are you with it in the moment, if one your cast is making a slight deviation but still getting you to where you need to be in the overall scheme of things.
RL: We don’t do too many takes, I mean the car sequence we only ran through I believe three times but we don’t deviate at all, it is all very highly scripted because we just spend weeks in a room and rehearse it to the point that it is second nature and we either pull it off or we don’t. You just have to hope that it all works the way you intended it to.
DV: You’ve worked with these characters so many times before, even in your films like “Waking Life”. Why do you think they keep coming back around for all three of you in your films?
RL: Wow, that’s a good question. It’s hard to say, I mean Ethan and Julie and myself have all created other characters so why do Jesse & Celine get this privileged thing to get to come back? Hmmm (pauses) It just seems like 5 years or so goes by and we’ll joke about doing a sequel because I mean we are all close friends but we don’t live close to one another. Then maybe a little later Ethan will say “You know…what if?”, and over a one year period we’ll talk about it and realize that maybe there is something to be said in this new phase of life. All the films really explored three very different phases of life like young and unattached in your early 20’s, then your early 30’s when you are working but are a little more hunkered down tackling some more obvious life obligations and then early 40’s when they are in it together domestically where a lot of people who started with these films are at now it just makes sense. I don’t know what their 50’s would be like, I’m nowhere near thinking about that yet… (laughs).
DV: You’ve got a few years before you have to worry about that…just as an aside I loved your film “Waking Life” any chance you’d ever tell a story in that style again?
RL: I don’t think I have any plans, nothing on my radar that would need to look like that. I like animation though, and I think there are a lot of possibilities with it given the directions you can go, but I mean they are all really just little tools you use to tell stories.
DV: Any tools that you’d like to try one day?
RL: (Laughs) It would depend on the story, I mean I’m not itching to do 3D, but if the right story came along I’d be up for trying anything.
“Before Midnight” is available now to rent or buy on DVD, Blu-Ray and On Demand from all major providers and retailers like HMV, amazon.ca and iTunes.
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