Links Through Their Lives

Tom Shone previews Richard Linklater’s new film Before Midnight, a follow-up to Before Sunrise (1995) and Before Sunset (2004), a trilogy that tracks one couple’s relationship every nine years:

The release of Before Midnight has been greeted with the sort of enthusiasm that normally precedes Oscar campaigns—the R.S.V.P.’s to the first screening were returned within hours, the publicist tells me. “That never happens.” At the risk of spoilers—the first ten minutes are close to pure bliss for fans—the film finds Celine and Jesse, the lovers of the first two films, on holiday in Greece, where they walk and talk and argue and flirt, as they have always done, the ancient backdrop only serving to underline the real subject of the films, a ménage-à-trois between the couple and a third, as-yet-unbilled character: Time.

Put like that, the films’ achievement suddenly seems very grand indeed—a ringing confirmation of those critics who compared Linklater’s experiments in real-time dramaturgy to Satyajit Ray’s Apu trilogy and Truffaut’s Antoine Doinel films. …

[Linklater] pauses, looking momentarily panicked, as if I am about to start talking about his themes or oeuvre. “I’m fascinated with that relation, which we all have, with our previous selves. We all have that, that’s all we have, our whole life—who you were as a kid, who you were at 20—the great thing about getting older is you can reference yourself. But I’m equally sure that if we really could meet ourselves, we’d be surprised. Because we’ve re-characterized ourselves so many times to fit our current needs: ‘Oh, I was an idiot then, but now I’m smart.’ Not giving yourself enough credit, or giving yourself too much. It’s a fascinating relationship. That’s what these films have become about.”

(Video: The official trailer to Before Midnight. Here is a fan trailer combining clips from the first two films.)