The One That Got Away, Pt. 2

CP: By then, time is running out.

Linklater: It all comes out of that urgency, that feeling of being on borrowed time.

CP: It has been 10 years since you started making Before Sunrise. How do you measure your progress as an artist--and a person--since then?

The magic hour: 'Before Sunset' director Richard Linklater captures the light
Warner Independent Pictures
The magic hour: 'Before Sunset' director Richard Linklater captures the light

Linklater: It's weird: You get older and, the way life unfolds, you can look back on a decade and it can feel at once like the blink of an eye and like an entire lifetime. It was fun to deal with that as subject matter: the notion of time and aging. As far as how it felt [to make Sunset], I think I've settled into a groove. You know how [Lawrence] Olivier said it takes 20 years to really become an actor? I think that's probably true of filmmaking, too--and I'm in my 20th year of actively trying to make movies. I trust my instincts now; I feel comfortable. Some directors like these war analogies for filmmaking: They try to turn it into a big battle, into some huge, brutal undertaking. I'm like, Fuck that, man--it's just what we do for a living. It's not that difficult. I mean, filmmaking is "rough" compared to what--being a soldier in Iraq? It's a privileged life--intense, yeah, but fulfilling.

CP: Like a lot of your films, Before Sunset is chiefly about talking. But it's also very much a study of body language, starting in the moments when the characters can't allow themselves to say how they really feel. It couldn't have been natural for the actors, because in real life they're very close friends, but for the movie they have to perform this physical discomfort with being in the other's company.

Linklater: Their little gestures, the subtle communications between them--all that was rehearsed. And yet, for Julie and Ethan, these characters are very familiar--like themselves in a parallel universe.

CP: Their expression through movement rather than words becomes more and more like a dance as the film progresses--climaxing in the very last shot.

Linklater: With that last image, I wanted to capture a moment of pure, unencumbered bliss.

CP: It's really lovely. And well earned.

Linklater: Because it's not easily earned. We always talk about [Before Sunset] as being a "romance for realists"--for people who don't buy all that fairy-tale crap. As a filmmaker, if you try to break the mold of the traditional romantic comedy, you're really stepping outside of Hollywood. Romantic comedy is built on these classic constructs that are totally fake--and yet the Cinderella thing does satisfy something in all of us. The thing is, if you're the sort of person who thinks a lot about love and relationships--if you don't necessarily believe that, say, Pretty Woman is a viable philosophy of romance--then you want a movie to go a little deeper.

CP: The other obvious question: Will there be a third film with these characters?

Linklater: Maybe. Julie says that if there's going to be a sex scene in the next one, we'd better hurry.

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