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Richard Linklater - Sculpting Time


A few hours for us translates into a lifetime for the characters on screen. No matter how much a character seems relatable to us, there is one thing always missing - the discontinuous passage of time. That is where director Richard Linklater comes in with his Before Trilogy.

The first film, Before Sunrise begins with an utterly unimaginable romantic idea of two strangers deciding to hop off a train and go explore a city together, with the subsequent films taking place and being filmed ten years after the last one. In Before Sunrise, the two characters, Jesse and Celine are in their 20's, still finding themselves. In the second, career focused and in their 30's and in the third, 40's and reflecting upon their life decisions. Each time they reunite, it is obvious that they too, just like the audience have been thinking about the events of the previous film for the last ten years. Those three days, that translate into three films are the defining moments for the audience as well as Jesse and Celine, with our experiences and theirs are almost perfectly, in parallel.

The complete mirror image to the Before Trilogy is Boyhood, also directed by Richard Linklater. Filmed over 12 years of real time, it follows the story of a boy, Mason and his family. It is quite frustrating to see that the conversation around the film almost always ends at the long and impressive production period. What really stands out to me is how the story and filmmaking are in conversation with the idea, and representation of time itself. One of the interesting things about the years passing in Boyhood is how little of a deal is made out of it. There are no visual cues that represent the passage of time like chapter titles etc. rather, the film simply melts into itself. Six year old Mason just becomes seven year old Mason with not much changing in his visible life. The absence of typical "big life events" is also unexpected in this sort of a film. We don't see Mason's high school graduation, we see the car ride home. We don't see a dramatic first kiss, just a kiss. The film's inclusion of little, yet big things like a home run at a baseball game makes it seem like the movie just happened to be filming at the right time. The film, for those around the same age as Mason during production is quite special because it is an almost surreal experience, to watch yourself grow up.

Where each film in the Before Trilogy is a single day in the Jesse and Celine's life that go on to completely define the characters, Boyhood is a beautifully curated sequence of not so major and bombastic moments that over the years, sculpt the characters for us and both films seem relatable, in their representation of time.


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