In the words of Steve Jobs, “No one wants to die. ” Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Weaved throughout, Before Sunrise directed by Richard Linklater, there is a synthesizing of ideals of a great Shakespearian tragedy and its foil the Shakespearian comedy, of the fear the submission of death while being filled with love and comedy.
The cookie cutter story of two lovers, Celine and Jesse, meet paths in a train, making a pact that regardless the odds they were getting off to roam Vienna, enchanted by the romance and cultural of their surroundings, all till reality hits them again at sunrise. Beyond it being a “love” story it has a minimalistic plot, with not much happening, aside from walking and talking with a few kisses here and there; it integrates the simplest rendition of the romantic’s conflict between love and its obstacles. The odd thing of the film, is that the dialogue contradicts the characterization of this being a romantic/ dramatic film.
The dialogue, carries a strong pull towards a tragedy with the fusion of the themes of death, love vs. time, and the cameos of religious ideals of life and reincarnation, minus the whimsical death. Conversations preoccupied with death, transience and the fragility of life. It’s safe to say that, the influence of the protagonist is the fear of death and mortality, while fighting against time. The question being what happens after sunrise? Nevertheless, Celine’s fascination and attraction to death and reincarnation lead to the magnetism between her and Jesse.
That same fascination mutates to an obsession, starting to infect every aspect of her life travel, decision making, and even her choice of literature. In fact, when the couple first meet they ask each other, “What are you reading? ” she responds by showing her the cover of George Batalie book titled Madame Edwards Le Mort, translating the dead man. The tale Jesse tells of himself as a child seeing his grandmother’s ghost in the spray of a water hose, hits a chord on Celine’s own obsession over her own mortality.
At this part of the film the characteristics of the romance begin to oozes out , that being the moment where she decided to put her life and safety in the hands of this random person she had just simply connected with. The ambiguity and the unknown of death has caused and controlled Celine’s every action that has occurred up to that point of her life, “I’m afraid of death 24 hours a day,” said Celine. Thus, unconsciously winning her over and convincing her to disembark the train and spend the wild night in Vienna.
As they start to embark this journey through out Vienna, they encounter countless individuals, pass numerous landmarks; but Celine remembering her previous travels is attracted to Friedhof der Namenlosen Friendhof der Namelosen , a graveyard filled with Viennese suicide and plague victims, many of them resting for eternity in the sort of anonymity . “I visited this as a young teenager. I think it left a bigger impression on me at that time than any of the museums we went to. ” Celine at an early age gained a respect for the delicacy of life and its worth. Seeing all this lives that were short lives, unmissed, forgotten, and never to exist .
Not even in the memories in those who loved them. “When I was a little girl, I thought that if none of your family or friends knew you were dead, then it’s like not really being dead. People can invent the best and the worst for you. ” It’s brought to our attention the same fear we all face, the not knowing the events, thoughts, or memories of us when we are gone. Celine brings up the question, “If none of your family or friends know your were you dead, or missing? ” Even before the time of Hezekiah, the man that asked for fifteen more years of life and god granted it to him, mankind feared the closing of their death.
Throughout this film, the protagonist from the time they leave the train they are in a sense of a split of time where time does not affect them it’s not until they reach the cemetery that time stops. “She was only 13 when she died. That meant something to me, you know, I was around that age when I first saw this. Hmm. Now, I’m 10 years older, and she’s still, 13, I guess. ” Celine in this quote admires how time does not affect the dead. For that reason that they know t time affects the living, they live spontaneous lives. Yet aware death stops, shortens and controls time.
As time passes, maybe we should record it and put it in a vault so that when we get a little old and don’t have the energy we can remember how life used to be. The theme of love resonated underneath the more highlighted themes of time, death, and the strongest of the being fear. In spite of the fear of death, mortality and time the protagonist used their love to overcome that fear. Love tore the veil of fear, which allowed them to move on with their lives. The original question was; what happens after sunrise? You tell me.