Janet and I recently had a conversation about finding enlightenment through love. It’s common to hear about this search for meaning and purpose as a solitary mission: Buddhist monks, for example, or the countless stories of a man or woman going off alone to find truth. These alone journeys and getting to know ourselves without responsibilities to others are very important and, I think, essential for every human. But there is another kind of searching, another kind of enlightenment that is perhaps much harder to find.
This is what Before Midnight is about. The third in the series by Richard Linklater following lovers Jessie and Celine through eighteen years of their relationship. In Before Sunrise we find them at their first meeting, In Before Sunset they find each other again ten years later. In Before Midnight we meet up with them in Greece, eight years after the last movie. They now have twin daughters, and while they are not officially married, they are committed to a life together.
In this third installment of the story of Jessie and Celine, we’re given a deeper look at love than in the previous two. When you first fall in love, there’s the excitement and newness on top of the real feelings. It’s beautiful in a fleeting way– because those first moments only happen once. When you are committed to each other, when years go by and you build a life together, have kids, make sacrifices– that love has to be a choice every day. You choose that love again and again, it happens millions of times. You are constantly struggling to balance your own needs and the needs of those you love. You argue, you may never completely understand your partner’s point of view. But you choose, and one day at a time this bigger thing is built. Through this struggle for balance and through this choosing, building, fighting, forgiving, loving, there is a kind of enlightenment.
My sister and I argue about these movies, with their long conversations, winding through the streets. She finds them boring, while I am entranced. The dialogue and acting are so natural, it feels like real conversations and relationships, which is the very thing I like about the movies, and the thing my sister hates. What I like about this, and it’s most evident in Before Midnight, is the elevation of every-day realistic conversations and relationships to the level of art. Because life is art. Life is the most beautiful and transient and fleeting art there is. Linklater constructs this in the film– this “reality”– but in a way that we see the beauty in it. The light, the colors, the things we notice and then forget about moments later.
Before Midnight is now playing at Images Cinema through Thursday 6/27. For showtimes and info please visit our website: http://www.imagescinema.org