“So listen, so here’s the deal. This is what we should do. You should get off the train with me here in Vienna, and come check out the capital.”
June 16,1994, on a train travelling from Budapest, 23-year-old Sorbonne student Celine sits near Jesse, a heartbroken backpacker on his way to Vienna to catch a flight home to America. He’s reading Klaus Kinski’s memoir All I Need Is Love, she’s holding a collection of erotic short stories by French intellectual George Bataille. A conversation flows.
Before Sunrise and its sequels that each take place nine years later in the story. Before Sunrise had a budget of $2.5 million, while its sequel Before Sunset had a lower budget of only $2 million.
The film was partly financed by the city of Vienna, and understandably so, as it appears to great advantage: beautiful, intriguing and romantic.
Also, both Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy contributed to the writing although their work is uncredited. Unlike Before Sunrise, which did not credit the screenwriting contributions of Hawke and Delpy, the two stars received writing credits for the sequels, and as a result, were nominated for two WGA awards and two Oscars.
The Cemetery Scene In Before Sunrise, 1994
The Friedhof Der Namenlosen, which translates to The Cemetery Of The Nameless, is a necropolis filled with cast iron black crosses of unidentified victims who drowned in The Danube River, as well as those who committed suicide and were turned away from Catholic burial. It was first built in 1840 but was destroyed by numerous floods, and was then moved to a less flood-prone area in 1900. In Before Sunrise, Celine gives a moving explanation of the cemetery when she and Jesse visit the site in the late afternoon, and she recalls the grave of a thirteen-year-old girl named Elizabeth who she visited a decade previous. A sincere exploration of love and personal connection, of loneliness and death.
The Ferris wheel in which Jesse and Celine share their first kiss is called the Wiener Reisenrad, one of the most famous symbols of Vienna. It was constructed in 1897 and has appeared in several other movies including The Third Man, Scorpio and The Living Daylights.
Strangely, throughout the entire scene the Ferris wheel doesn’t move at all.
When it came to shooting the scene on the Ferris wheel, where Celine and Jesse first kiss, Delpy complained that Hawke "kisses like an adolescent." In an interview with Time magazine, the actor remembered it as "one of my worst experiences on a film set." But Delpy's remark was worked into the screenplay and became a memorable line in a later scene.
The poem, "Delusion Angel" was written for the movie by David Jewell.
Oh, baby with your pretty face
Drop a tear in my wineglass
Look at those big eyes
See what you mean to me
Sweet cakes and milkshakes
I am a delusion angel
I am a fantasy parade
I want you to know what I think
Don’t want you to guess anymore
You have no idea where I came from
We have no idea where we’re going
Lodged in life
Like two branches in a river
Caught in the current
I’ll carry you, you’ll carry me
That’s how it could be
Don’t you know me?
Don’t you know me by now?
The Kleines Café (where the scene with the palm reader takes place) happens to be owned by the angry husband who appears on the train at the beginning of the film.
After Jesse playfully kicks Celine, she says "Ow!" and then "Riducule" which is French for ridiculous.
In the scene where Jesse complains about fortune tellers never telling the truth, he quotes almost exactly from a scene in the book "The Circus of Dr. Lao" by Charles G. Finney. In the book, the philosopher and Theurgist Appollonius of Tyana tells a widow that her next day and the day after will be exactly the same as the day before, "a tedious collection of hours".
Jesse promises the bartender to send him the money for the red wine, yet he never gets the bar’s address from him.
Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy are the only actors in the film whose characters are given names.
The film takes place from June 16 to June 17, 1994.
During a conversation about their first sexual feelings, Jesse explains to Celine that he had an "obsessive relationship with Miss July 1978," and then refers to the playmate as "Crystal." The name of Miss July 1978 was actually Karen Morton, not someone named Crystal.
Director Richard Linklater
Before Sunrise was inspired by a real-life encounter that director Richard Linklater had. In the fall of 1989 he was visiting his sister in Philadelphia and met a woman named Amy Lehrhaupt in a toy store. The two spent the evening walking around the city from midnight until 6am in the morning. Linklater says they did kiss and exchange phone numbers, but the distance between them caused it to eventually fizzle out. Linklater later learned that Lehrhaupt was killed in a motorcycle accident on May 9, 1994, only weeks before Before Sunrise started filming.
In the scene where Jesse and Celine play pinball, director Richard Linklater makes a cameo. He is briefly seen playing fussball (table football).
When Richard Linklater first considered casting Ethan Hawke, he thought that the actor was too young for the part. Linklater saw Hawke at a play in New York City and reconsidered after talking to the actor.
Hawke and Delpy were first flown to Linklater's hometown of Austin, TX where they spent three 14-hour days "just talking about life and getting a starting point," according to Linklater. A month later, the three flew to Vienna for three weeks of intense rehearsals before shooting began, and the rehearsals continued long after. Linklater says, "The night before the last day of the shoot we were up to one o'clock rehearsing and rewriting things." Many improvisations were made during filming, although they occurred during rehearsals only. At one point they needed a cafe scene, and the scene that Linklater wrote was all wrong. Delpy suggested the fake phone call. "It was something she used to do with her girlfriends" says Linklater.
Linklater on the difficulty of the shoot: "I think these were two of the hardest roles anyone could ever have, but I'm not sure anyone will appreciate it. I told Ethan and Julie early on that they would work really hard and then the best thing anyone could say is 'you looked like you were just playing yourself.'"
Linklater tried to shoot the scenes in sequence as much as possible, even if it meant going back to the same location a second time. This helped the actors. According to Ethan Hawke, "You always had to remember, 'How many hours have we known each other now?' and try to figure out what kind of conversation you would have after 15 minutes versus three hours versus ten hours."
Linklater said on Jesse and Celine seeing each other again: "I always said that the movie was a litmus test for how you view romance," he told The New York Times in 2004. "Some people would go: 'It's so clear. They will never get back together.' People were so sure." He said the viewer's interpretation depends on their romantic history. Apparently Delpy, Linklater, and Hawke are romantics...they knew Celine and Jesse would come back together.