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American Women's Club of Hamburg

Film review - Before Midnight

Director: Richard Linklater, USA/Greece 2013

Jessie (Ethan Hawke) and Céline (Julie Delpy) met eighteen years ago on a train to Vienna. They spent the night together walking and talking throughout the film entitled Before Sunrise (1995). At sunrise, they parted on the train platform and planned to meet again, which they did in Before Sunset (2004). That time, they were in Paris and they spent the day discussing their unhappy relationships with the film ending on a bit of a pregnant pause – would they have a happy relationship together? Well, Before Midnight begins at the airport with Jessie saying goodbye to his teenage son. Then you see him and Céline with two sleeping children in the back seat of the car. They are staying with some friends in Greece who have given them a weekend in a hotel on their own. They walk to the hotel but have difficulty relaxing with one another in their room, so they walk around town, talking and talking. Personally, I found the discussions in this third film more exasperating and irritating than entertaining, but strangely enough, I just wanted to keep listening in on the conversation to learn how it all turned out. And, Jessie and Céline never stop to breathe so there is no place to stop listening! If you have followed Jessie and Céline from Vienna to Paris, you will want to accompany them to Greece and on to their next destination as well. They are simply entertaining.

Press Conference: Will there be a fourth film? Ethan Hawke would like to do a fully erotic film with Julie Delpy, but she resists. Or perhaps when she is 80!

How were the dialogues worked out, with the male and female perspective? Linklater thinks it’s just different perspectives, but not necessarily male or female. It is a total collaboration among the three of them. They have a couple of years to talk about things. They really trust one another and discuss what works and if it doesn’t, then it goes. Delpy has looked at her old journals and thinks that it is interesting to take a “seed of truth” and use it, based more on feelings or an essence, which “grows a tree of fiction, rooted in something true.” Linklater says that it feels improvised, but it is not. It is a lot of work

How much of each actor is in their character? Hawke explains that one of the joys of working with Rick is that you can blur the line between character and player so that it is almost indecipherable. He (Linklater) allows them to shape and structure the work. But they all agree that a large part of Jessie and Céline is Richard Linklater.

Trivia: Ethan Hawke met Julie Delpy for the first time for filming Before Sunrise.

Another opinion:

A Feminist’s Perspective: Before Midnight

Before Midnight is a film that struggles to find its purpose. It is the logical happy-ending conclusion to Before Sunset (2004).

Celine and Jessie find a way to stay together, he divorces his wife and they now are both successful, living in Europe with two beautiful daughters. However, no one wants to watch a feature-length film about two people being happy, so there has to be a conflict that arises, but unfortunately in this case it feels rather forced. This conflict is essentially that Jesse feels disconnected from his son who lives in the States and he is considering moving there to be closer to him, but Celine wants to take a job opportunity that would require her to stay in Europe. In a normal relationship this would be a fight or a serious discussion that would require both partners to really have to work to make compromises. In the Before world, this means making Celine's character act irrational and start a huge fight.

This is frustrating, not so much because it is unrealistic (who hasn't started an irrational fight with their partner?), but rather that it allows the characters to fall into stereotypical gender roles. There is a point where Celine asks the no-win question to Jesse about whether, if they had met for the first time now, he would still be attracted to her. On their special night together at a hotel room, she stomps out of the room a few times, slams the door, and tells him they should break up. Meanwhile, Jesse is relatively calm, rational and sweet, even going so far as to write a silly letter to make Celine feel better. This unfortunately places the characters into the normal hysterical woman versus rational man trope. This trope is characterized by portraying women as "less rational, disciplined, and emotionally stable than men, and thus more prone to mood swings [and] irrational overreactions....as a result female characters may be coddled."[1] Indeed, Celine must be coddled by Jesse who reminds her of all the reasons they are together and why they should stay together. In the end, he is the one who brings rationality back to the conversation and allows to them to continue together as a couple.

Reinforcing the male and female gender roles is not just an issue on the level of promoting a form of sexism, but it is also a problem for the filmmaker who is trying to make his characters connect with the audience. While there were moments of the film that were enjoyable, I was constantly annoyed by the character of Celine and I kept wondering why Jesse was still with this incredibly irrational woman. As these films are marketed primarily to a female audience, alienating them by making the male the rational one and the female completely irrational not only reinforces negative stereotypes within the audiences’ minds, but also can serve to make the film less enjoyable. (Rose F.)



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