Why I want to grow old with the Before series
Perhaps it’s just an age thing, but I think the Before series only gets better with each new installation.
It could of course be as simple as that it’s easier for me to recognize myself in them in the later installations. Jesse and Celine were almost in the age of my children in Before Sunrise. In Before Midnight on the other hand, they’re about my own age, perhaps just a couple of years younger. This makes me feel a lot closer to them. The life issues they’re struggling with are issues that I can understand.
But I think it’s more than just identification that makes the movies better and better. It’s also a question of how they develop and grow over time. With every new conversation a new layer is added. Do you remember the introduction to the symphony orchestra in Moonrise Kingdom, where one instrument after another is introduced? That’s how those movies run. And like in a symphony, there are melodies that keep coming back, but different every time.
Celine and Jesse keep growing. If they were like a simple house wine in the first film, nice and easy to drink, but not overly complicated, they have matured into something far deeper, more complex, with a full body and more tannin when we meet them now. And the older they get, the more do I like them. It’s the same as with trees. They’re not particularly interesting when they’re young and newly planted. But over time they develop a personality and they become rooted. Wrinkles are to humans what annual rings are to trees.
In the middle of this love letter to Before Midnight I must admit that I did notice one little dissonance in my experience of it. It didn’t by any means ruin the movie for me, but I had to wrestle with it a little before I could accept it. What bothered me was that I did notice some tendencies of stereotyping differences between men and women. You know in the “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” style, which I find pretty annoying. But after having a conversation with myself I found that I could accept it. After all: the movie doesn’t advocate this view on men and women; it just shows two people who are products of their upbringing. Perhaps I’m prejudiced, but I imagine that neither France, nor US is far progressed in this area. So it only reflects the time and the culture. I don’t need to agree with what they say.
That’s it though. I don’t have any other criticism against it. It’s a wonderful film in a wonderful series, which more and more is turning into a version of Scenes from a Marriage, but in a modern setting.
Richard Linklater refuses to say if there will be another Before movie or not. It’s not because it’s a secret; he doesn’t know himself yet. But I’m already hoping and waiting for another movie. The nine year countdown has started. And after that I hope there will be another one made, in 18 years. And then yet another, in 27 years.
It would continue like this, until we get the final film, at a point where Celine and Jesse will be like the couple in Haneke’s Amour. I wonder how I’ll feel about that one, provided that I’m still alive to see it. Will the reminder about my own aging and imminent death as I see their aging be too painful for me to watch? Or will the annual rings that I’ve grown over the years provide a skin think enough to protect me? I don’t know yet, as little as Jesse and Celine knew what awaited them as they met on the train so many years ago. But I’m willing to make the journey with them.
Before Midnight (Richard Linklater US 2013) My rating: 5/5