The Before Trilogy: Time Regained

The Before Trilogy: Time Regained by Dennis Lim (for the Criterion Collection)

The Before movies are often called “talky,” with good reason, but that tag gives short shrift to the sheer delicacy and precision of the actors’ body language, the degree to which these films are rooted in a subtle interplay of minute gestures and split-second glances. One sweetly telling moment happens aboard a tramcar early in Sunrise when Jesse impulsively reaches out, as if to brush a lock of Celine’s hair from her face, but just as quickly loses his nerve and withdraws his hand. And not a single word is exchanged in perhaps the film’s most heart-stopping sequence: squeezed into a record-store listening booth while a folk song by Kath Bloom plays, Celine and Jesse steal glances at each other, avoiding direct eye contact, smiling to themselves, fully aware the other is looking. The critic Robin Wood once proclaimed the scene resistant to analysis, calling it “the cinema’s most perfect depiction . . . at once concrete and intangible, of two people beginning to realize that they are falling in love.”

These two scenes were of some of the more “affective” moments I had with Before Sunset and Sunrise. The visual parts are lessened in Midnight, left to compositional prowess over the actions of the characters themselves.

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