The power of coincidence before sunrise

Some time ago on this blog I mentioned the remarkable coincidence that occurred when I happened to have exactly the same amount in loose change in my pocket as what the supermarket bill came to.

Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy in Before Sunrise

Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy in Before Sunrise

Another coincidence of sorts happened to me more recently. When on one of my (now increasingly rare) trips into town (ie Central London) on the pretext of attending a data protection seminar (yes, I know fascinating stuff), I stopped at a branch of a well-known recorded media retailer to acquire some CDs and DVDs. On my shopping list was Before Sunrise, a film from the mid-’90s starring Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke as two young free-spirited travellers, one French and one American who meet by chance on a train bound for Vienna. It’s quite an uplifting film with a simple plot in which nothing of note actually happens, except that the two characters (the only main characters in the film) wander around Vienna over the course of 24 hours and have various quasi-intellectual conversations on life, death, art, philosophy, then have sex with each other in a park (an uneccesary event which lowers the tone of the film by the way), and sleeping rough, before going their own separate ways agreeing to meet up again at the same place in 6 months time.

The type of film you’d see late on a Sunday night on Channel 4 thanks to the generous sponsorship of a well-known Belgian brewer famous for its pretentious black and white commercials featuring French peasants of the Resistance during the second world war. I’d seen the film before a few years ago (probably late one Sunday night on Channel 4 come to think of it, and being knackered at the work the next day), but was keen to revisit it to pick up on any points I’d missed out the first time – and also for the mesmerising song “Living Life” played over the end credits, which captures the spirit of the film pefectly.In any case it was going quite cheaply, so I bought it safe in the knowledge that I could always flog it off on Amazon once I’d watched it a few more times.

It’s one of those films like Crocodile Dundee, Jaws or Psycho which stands out on its own and thus making a sequel is tantamout to sacrilege. But a sequel did come out about a decade after the original. And predictably enough it didn’t live up to the standard. Swapping Vienna for Paris with the characters 10 years older just didn’t do it for me.

Anyway, the coincidence was that the very next day, the arts section of The Independent (which on Fridays publishes old reviews of films from years gone by) happened to have a retro-review of that very film.

Stranger things have happened though.  Who would have thought 6 months ago that Tyrone would be in another All Ireland final and Stephen O’Neill back in the squad?

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6 comments

  1. I like this writer’s satirical leanings inherent in his contrasting personalities. By portraying himself on the one hand as the sophisticated independent cinema buff who likes to analyse the aesthetic minutiate of the film’s deeper meaning and on the other as the unsophisticated rural GAA supporter from some God-forsaken backwater he gets right to the crux of his schizophrenic lifestyle. Thus the urban intellectual and the unreconstructed yokel rub shoulders in a twisted bastardisation of this confused post-modern society of the early 21st century.

  2. Welcome to the Dreaming Arm, Mark! It’s great to have the views of such a distinguished film critic as yourself on this blog. To be honest I haven’t a clue what you’re on about, but I’ll take it as a compliment.

  3. I have both the original and the sequal as I am a big Ethan Hawke fan. Have you read his novels? “The Hottest State”is very good, “Ash Wednesday” less do IMHO.
    I loved Sunrise because it captured the spirit of that age when you can do what the hell you like and chatting up strangers on trains and planes was a fantasy that sometimes became reality. Sunset is a very good film in its own right because it captures the come down you have in your thirties when you realize that the world is not yours for the taking and you grooves become trenches and what was one so fluid has turned to glass. It also says more about the nature of desire than the first film. The ending is painfullly bitter-sweet.

  4. Your analysis of Sunrise is spot on Aidan. I couldn’t have put it better myself! It’s somewhat appropriate that Ethan Hawke was also in Dead Poets Society, in which the central theme is the doctrine of “carpe diem/seize the day”, which is also very much in the spirit of Sunrise.

    Hven’t read any of Hawke’s books, but now that you mention it I might give Hottest State a go.

  5. Whilst i’m all in favour of the laissez-faire concept of life imitating art, Chekov, you still have to draw the line somewhere! The line in this case, being between the swings and the roundabout.

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