DIRECTOR: Richard Linklater
The film’s opening scene can be misleading. Linklater’s camera shows us a middle aged couple on a train speaking at volume in their native tongue. There are no subtitles. All we hear is the emotion of their voices heightening and frustrated towards each other. We spot people distracted by the couple in Jesse (Hawke) and Celine (Delpy), sleeping passengers and older couples. Why did we have to witness a couple arguing in a foreign tongue, why not cut straight to two random strangers meeting on a train?
Jesse and Celine strike conversation on the train and instantly connect. Jesse is on his way to Vienna, all he wants a trip back home to the States. Celine is a student on her way back to Paris.
If there’s any kind of magic in this world it must be in the attempt of understanding someone sharing, something. I know, it’s almost impossible to succeed …. but who cares really? The answer must be in the attempt.
The connection is real, and natural conversations flow between the characters. This is a film with no plot but a premise. Place two characters in an environment, have them share common interests towards each other and sit back and watch. Guess what, it works. They decide to get out at Vienna and extend their infectious compatibility for twenty four hours until the next train. There’s no corny romantic line, or stock standard genre card that plays out. All we observe and hear is dialogue and conversation between two people offering their thoughts, perspectives and views of the world. Conversations about authentic relationships, ex partners, parents deceitfulness, palm readers and more flow in this ninety minute film. Is it drama, comedy or romance? It can fit into all three of those categories but not because Linklater couldn’t make his mind up about direction. He, the scriptwriters, and actors understand that relationships fit in all three of those genres.
We witnessed the couple on board fighting, do they represent a relationship for the sake of a relationship or a strained one? Two people can share a connection in Jesse and Celine and can be with each other, have an intimate bond without a sexual touch. They understand quality time and allow themselves to be vulnerable unlike other on-screen film couples.
This film allows itself to exist and lets the viewer take away from it what they want. One viewer may like the romantic view of Celine, another may like the rational Jesse. Then again one may agree with the realistic Celine about the next meeting time. Jesse’s thoughts on life may echo many twenty something’s journals.
Many have called this film the quintessential generation x film on love and romance because it came out in 1995 and spoke to that generation. It’s re watchable even now, relatable now and it’s good because it challenges subjective views of love on cinema instead giving two characters a realism that Hawke and Delpy can only deliver.
Ethan Hawke as Jesse
Julie Delpy as Celine