A Little Happier: In the Movie “Before Sunrise,” with Which Character Do You Identify?

It has been years since I saw the movie Before Sunrise, but I often find myself thinking about a snippet of conversation from the movie. I finally went back to look up the exact words.

The movie is about two twenty-somethings (Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy) who meet on a train in Europe and the one night they spend hanging out together.

Céline: “I always have this strange feeling that I am this very old woman laying down about to die. You know, that my life is just her memories, or something.”

Jesse: “That’s so wild. I mean, I always think that I’m still this thirteen-year-old boy, you know, who just doesn’t really know how to be an adult, pretending to live my life, taking notes for when I’ll really have to do it. Kind of like I’m in a dress rehearsal for a junior high play.”

I’ve never forgotten this scene, because I know exactly what both of them are talking about.

On the one hand, I often have the feeling that Jesse describes — a strange air of dress rehearsal, of make-believe—that I, and the people around me, are playing elaborate games of pretend. I find myself in an airport, and as I pull my carry-on bag behind me, I think, “Hey, I must look just like a grown-up person going to a conference.” And I am.

In a way, this feeling is comforting, because it makes life less serious; it gives everything a faint air of the ridiculous. But it also takes away from my appreciation of this moment, this time. 

I also sometimes have the feeling that Celine describes: I’m far in the future, looking back on the present moment with deep nostalgia. A few weeks ago, I knocked on the door to my daughter Eleanor room to make sure she was awake and getting ready for school. Suddenly, I felt as though I’d been transported back from decades in the future, to reenact an unfamiliar gesture that I hadn’t made in years. 

Have you ever experienced this kind of feeling? Which character do you identify with?

Here’s a link to that clip of Before Sunrise.





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