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The School of Talk: Dialogue and Richard Linklater

There’s something just delectable about dynamically written dialogue. Alliteration aside, I love a film that just drips with carefully chosen words, placed just so within the context of a film. If you’ve ever tried to write dialogue for a film, you know just how difficult it can be. You’d think writing down simple words for an actor to deliver with panache would be relatively easy, but making dialogue flow and sound natural can be one of the hardest aspects of film-making to achieve. There is a huge difference between how something sounds when read on a page versus then spoken aloud. Let’s refer to one of the masters for spiritual guidance.

One of my favorite well-versed wizards, Richard Linklater, is the mastermind behind films like Dazed and Confused and The School of Rock. He will always hold a special place in my heart, however, for 1995’s Before Sunrise and its 2004 sequel Before Sunset. I’m not usually such a sucker for romances, but these films just touch my soul. Alright, enough sappiness, let me give an example of why I love them so:

Jesse (Ethan Hawke): Sometimes I dream about being a good father and a good husband. And sometimes it feels really close. But then other times it seems silly like it would ruin my whole life. And it’s not just a fear of commitment or that I’m incapable of caring or loving because… I can. It’s just that, if I’m totally honest with myself I think I’d rather die knowing that I was really good at something. That I had excelled in some way than that I’d just been in a nice, caring relationship.

Celine (Julie Delpy): I believe if there’s any kind of God it wouldn’t be in any of us, not you or me but just this little space in between. If there’s any kind of magic in this world it must be in the attempt of understanding someone sharing something. I know, it’s almost impossible to succeed but who cares really? The answer must be in the attempt.

Given the premise for Before Sunrise, where an American guy and a French girl spend a night walking and talking in Vienna, you may think that it makes for a fairly dull flick. And you’d be wrong. Linklater’s dialogue is nothing if not unflinchingly honest. It embraces the ultimate ideal of connecting with a stranger in a romantic city, but shies away from ever becoming too clichéd for its own good. The young lovers cover a lifetime of topics in their short time together, from God to relationships to sex to life aspirations, touching upon personal issues and experiences I’m sure some people would avoid like the plague when confronted with someone new.

It Could Happen to You (Um..maybe!)

Linklater does convey a fantasy with these films, I’m not denying that. The chance of this happening in real life is indeed rare, but the stream of consciousness technique employed in this film and the sequel (which actors Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy helped write and nabbed an Oscar nod), does the rare thing of actually making you think, even for a split second, that “Hey, maybe someone out there does think just like me.” Cheesy, maybe. Still awesome.

Renee

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