In an interview in Vanity Fair, the interviewer started with, “This is the most romantic film I’ve ever seen with this much fighting.” Star Julie Delpy replied, “The most romantic film about fighting!” Amusingly, a piece in Elite Daily says, “No epic love stories were written about complacency from years of living in the doldrums of lame ass bullshit.”
Before Midnight, taken on its own, is not particularly romantic. But, it also is not supposed to be. The Celine and Jesse story has moved beyond romance. That does not mean that it has moved beyond love. The present (and near future) of Celine and Jesse’s relationship actually gets wrapped up in the car conversation; Celine announces that she may take a government job and this exchange happens:
No, you don’t want to work for him.
For the government?
This is different. We need laws. That’s the only way this is gonna happen.
That’s not the only way. You guys have been getting a lot of good work done.
I’ve been thinking. This is the way to go.
Okay then, let me remind you that you do not like that guy. The whole time that you worked for him before, you complained about him, constantly.
He can be an asshole. He gets things done. That’s how I’m gonna be from now on—
—a real bitch, okay?
Well, every time I look at that guy, all I see is ambition. I mean, I’m sorry, I don’t trust him. The only reason he’’s going from nonprofit to government is to have people kiss his ass.
I don’t care about him.
And I think you’re gonna be miserable, alright, just with all that politicking and compromise.
Whatever. I’ve made my decision. I’m tired of being the do-gooder that rolls a boulder up and watches it roll down.
Her return to a previous employer, Remy, is basically her marriage in a nutshell. Sticking it out with a man she doesn’t necessarily like so she can have a stable enough life to get things done. There is politicking and compromise in marriage. There is fighting. The non-romantic view is this: it is not necessarily that you being with that particular person is the greatest thing, but that it is greater than the alternatives, greater than being alone to be sure. In his piece about the first film in the Before series, Robin Wood (1998) writes, of the “unknown destination” of its ending, “if we want them to form a relationship (as surely we do), then it must be of a quite different order from anything offered by the familiar models” (p. 327). The familiar models being romantic novels, romantic films (especially romantic comedies, even though the Before films are not comedies).
Just now, Stefanos (Panos Koronis) and Ariadni. (Athena Rachel Tsangari) were fighting in the kitchen... sort of. A minor dispute over food preparation, and Stefanos is holding a knife, Ariadni tries to get it from him and Celine says, “You guys are fighting... With knives? Okay, stop it. Stop fighting with knives.” Ariadni says, “We’re not fighting. We’re negotiating.”
And, they call their relationship a “system.”
But, a “system” is not romantic. In film, we usually want romance, or we want its opposite, however you want to define it. Destruction, I guess. Romance is like the creation of something, but that something is not that exciting in and of itself. But, that is entirely what this third film in the Before series is about. Just look at the dinner conversation, everyone talking about what is practical between men and women, what is more important than romantic love.
Before Sunrise is easier to love because it’s about the new, the romantic. There is implicit action in it, even though so much of it is internal, invisible. We can imagine or remember being in that situation, discovering love. Then, that film ends and we are left hanging. Before Sunset brings us back, offers us hope because a love lost, misplaced, missed can be found again, rediscovered, reinvented, replaced. Before Midnight, though... Its climax is angry, its climax is sad, its climax is this painful... thing, hard to watch if you’ve ever been anywhere near that kind of situation (and maybe painful for those who have not been, but I wouldn’t know). I have, of course, complained more than once in this blog about how many people just want film to be pleasant, enjoyable, brief escapes from reality. Like a fight in the reality of a relationship to clear away hurt feelings, misunderstandings, and disagreements, a good hard film can be better than pure escapism sometimes. A difficult watch exorcises demons.
Sometimes, you need to hurt.
Sometimes, your demons need to get out and stretch their legs.
(That being said, the most painful part of tomorrow’s movie is played for laughs, so I shall end this month a little easier.)
Like Celine and Jesse walking around the Greek countryside, walking around Paris, walking around Vienna, we all need to get out there, stretch our legs, find people with which to spend time. And, we also need to let out our darkest selves from time to time. Doesn’t mean you act on horrible urges if you have them, but you acknowledge them and move the fuck on. Make room for our best selves.
Three films, eighteen years, nine days, time to let Celine and Jesse go. I have a less painful film for the next three days, then Groundhog Day on the 2nd, then... I don’t know yet. I’m off to Florida for a speech tournament tomorrow; the new month will get going while I’m there. I have not tried to plan ahead. Just going to let the blog and I settle into some new pattern as life continues, as it will usually do.