Happy 20th, Before Sunrise

before sunrise posterSome 20 years ago, Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise was released, a simple but effective film featuring just two leads, a train, some walking, and a lot of talking.

I first watched Before Sunrise and its then only sequel in January 2013. I gave both films four out of five stars, calling Before Sunrise ‘captivating’.

The premise of Before Sunrise is minimalist: two strangers meet on a train and spend the evening together walking around the city that they’ve arrived in. The beauty is that what happens is very subtle; there are no fanfares or fireworks, just talking.

In this respect, you could say that Linklater is the antithesis of the likes of Michael Bay and Roland Emmerich. Through such films as Before Sunrise and its sequels, Dazed and Confused and Boyhood, Linklater expertly puts the spotlight on life as it happens and not an over-the-top, ‘Hollywood’ version.


Meet Jesse and Celine

After striking up conversation with Frenchwoman Celine (Julie Delpy) on the train, who’s heading back to university in Paris, young American Jesse (Ethan Hawke) decides to try his luck and convince her to join him and get off the train at Vienna.

His flight leaves in the morning and, as he doesn’t have enough money to rent a room, how does the idea of killing some time together by exploring Vienna sound? Why not take a chance and spend this one night together rather than thinking, twenty years down the line, I wonder what would have happened?

A detox from big blockbusters 

I featured Before Sunrise in one of my answers for the Life, Love and the Movies blogathon that I participated in during January 2014. I chose Jesse and Celine’s Austrian stroll as my favourite date from a film, saying: “It’s the connection that they share that singles this ‘date’ out as extraordinary.”

I still agree with this.

Over the course of the evening and into the early hours of the next morning, Jesse and Celine talk about a huge variety of topics, from love and past relationships to religion. This deep connection is backed up by a great script, one that Linklater co-wrote with Kim Krizan in order to have an authentic female voice. It’s then further supported by great casting, as Hawke and Delpy are very likable and bring a genuine quality to their roles.

I recommend Before Sunrise, and its sequels, to anyone that would like a detox from big budget blockbusters and to those who enjoy getting to know characters. I’d be surprised if you didn’t feel as though you were in Vienna with Jesse and Celine.

The fact that the film is now 20-years-old won’t impact on your viewing at all. In fact, I’d go as far as to say the only thing that dates it is the fashion and lack of personal technology. Perhaps it’s a detox and thought-provoker in more than way.

From Malta With Love

As you read this, I’ll hopefully be having a fantastic time on holiday in Malta, a beautiful Mediterranean island that I’ve visited twice before, the last time being in 2000. 

Valletta, Malta. Image by Juan Cabanillas @ Flickr

Apart from Gladiator and the live-action version of Popeye – the set of which is now a permanent feature on the island – I can’t think of what else was filmed in Malta. Elements of ‘Game of Thrones’ are shot there, but what other feature films were?

A quick search on Movie-Locations.com revealed the below films, though a more comprehensive list is provided by Wikipedia.

  • Alexander
  • Clash of the Titans (1981)
  • Cutthroat Island
  • The Da Vinci Code
  • The Devil’s Double
  • Gladiator
  • The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
  • Midnight Express
  • Munich
  • Popeye
  • The Spy Who Loved Me
  • Troy
  • World War Z
A postcard from set

Out of the films listed on Movie-Locations.com I’ve seen five: The Da Vinci Code, GladiatorThe Spy Who Loved Me, Troy, and World War Z.

From a bit more research, it appears that Malta was only used once in The Spy Who Loved Me, and that was as a backdrop to the final scene. Well, if you need a beautiful blue sea then the Mediterranean is certainly a good choice!

The use of Malta for the flashback scenes of the Knights Templar in The Da Vinci Code makes sense, as Malta has, of course, a strong history with the Knights Templar.

World War Z used Valletta, Malta’s capital, to stand in for Jerusalem but it is really Gladiator and Troy that made the best use of the Mediterranean island, in my opinion.

Both Gladiator and Troy use Malta in much the same way that Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings used New Zealand: they use the country to help tell the story.

Picture perfect

Following my boyfriend and I’s visit to Malta, here are a few photos that may look familiar…

Popeye Village, Mellieha. As seen in Popeye

Popeye Village

Azure Window, Gozo. As seen in season 1, Game of Thrones

Azure Window, Gozo

Fort St Elmo, Valletta. As seen in Midnight Express

Fort St Elmo, Valletta

[Movies of the Month] March


The Imitation Game 
– Excellent film; well cast leads backed up by a concise script. ★★★★½
Death at a Funeral – Very funny Brit flick, there are plenty of laughs in this dark comedy. ★★★★
Fargo – Thoroughly bizarre but great fun; the accents take some getting used to, as being British, the only American accents I really know are Texan, East Coast or Californian! ★★★★
Ender’s Game – I can’t say how it compares to the book, but it’s a good premise that is well executed through excellent effects. Let down due to its predictability. ★★★½

Rango – First rewatch for some time, I’d forgotten how much fun this film is; a great introduction to the Western genre for kids. ★★★★
Oz: The Great and Powerful – This is always an enjoyable watch, with fun characters, gorgeous costumes and great effects. ★★★★

Total: 6

Since 1/1/15 

Cinema visits: 1
1st timers: 19
Rewatches: 16
Documentaries: 1
Total: 37

Friday Night Classics

On Friday 6th March, my parents, boyfriend and I enjoyed an evening of classical music courtesy of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO). This wasn’t an evening of Vivaldi, Tchaikovsky or Bach, though. Instead, it was an evening of Williams, Zimmer and A R Rahman.

CBSO Friday Night Classics: 21st Century Blockbusters

Among the classical music I’ve seen performed live, I’ve been fortunate to see the London Philharmonic Orchestra perform the full The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring score. This was a fantastic experience, and I remember getting goose-bumps during certain pivotal parts, when I knew exactly what was happening on screen in that moment.

Instead of music from just the one film, our evening with the CBSO featured extracts from a variety of films from the last 15 years. These films included War Horse, Avatar, Slumdog Millionaire, Love Actually, and How to Train Your Dragon.

There were three pieces that stood out in particular for me. Firstly, due to the sheer power of it, the battle scene from Gladiator. Listening to the score and that piece in particular on a CD is impressive enough, but hearing it live by a 75-piece orchestra in a purpose-built hall with brilliant acoustics is on a different level.

Second was the main theme from Star Trek into Darkness. Due to his recent passing, the compere dedicated the performance to Leonard Nimoy, which was a very nice touch, and it was wonderful to hear the beloved elements of the TV show’s theme combine with original melodies created for the new film.

Finally, out of the selection of Harry Potter pieces, the theme for the Knight Bus was very memorable, simply because it used such a variety of instruments that I’d never seen before let alone heard. This piece belonged to the percussion department, and while at times it sounded quite disjointed, it felt like the department was showing off its capabilities, saying: “There’s a lot more to us than just the drums!”


The Five Senses blogathon


This blogathon is the creation of My Film Views, Karamel Kinema and MovieInsiders, exploring what film association you have to each of the five senses, as Nostra explains:

For each of the senses you will have to describe the movie related association you have with it. This can be a particular movie or even a scene, but also something having to do with the movie going experience (so for example the smell of popcorn in the theater).

The association I have with this isn’t my own but it’s one that I was a witness to and has always stuck with me. The year was 2007, the film was Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, and my friend and I decided to watch it at the cinema.

The film was mediocre, with the way it was shot far surpassing the vocal talents of the leads, and it’s my friend’s reaction after the film that I remember more than the film itself.

For those unfamiliar with the story, Sweeney Todd is a murderer who has a novel way of disposing the bodies. Enter Mrs Lovett, an equally unstable opportunist who needs some fillings for her meat pies. It’s a gruesome tale and one that would understandably leave you queasy.

Not my friend, though.

We’d caught a late showing and on leaving the cinema he announced: “I could really eat a meat pie now.” With shock, I asked him: “Did you not watch any of that film we just saw?”

It turns out that whenever my friend watched a particularly blood-thirsty film he’d always feel peckish afterwards. You might have thought that’d put me off him a bit, but we actually went on to live with each other. Happily, all my body parts remained intact…


As you’ll have seen from my recent posts, I’m a big fan of music scores. There are many OSTs and original songs that I enjoy, but there’s one in particular that comes to mind. Ever since my first viewing of it, some 15 years ago, I have known, word-for-word, David Bowie’s ‘Dance Magic Dance’ from Labyrinth.

The film is very much a product of its time and is one that I enjoy coming back to. Be warned, though: ‘Dance Magic Dance’ will take residence in your brain and every time you hear those opening chords, the words will be out your mouth before you know it!

One of the joys of film is that it gives life to an idea and someone’s imagination. Sometimes, especially in the case of book-to-film adaptations, what you’ve always thought something would look like doesn’t match what’s shown on screen. Sometimes, it looks exactly or exceeds what you thought.

When the Fellowship arrived in Lothlórien in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, the forest was what I’d imagined it to be like but even more beautiful, more delicate and more ethereal.

I was willing the camera to pan around and show more of this wonderful place. As the Fellowship moved you caught glimpses of distant rooms and lights, and more than anything I wanted to be transported into the frame and explore.

There have been many more occasions when I’ve felt like this, but Lothlórien remains my favourite.


I left this association until last to answer, as there wasn’t anything specific that came to my mind. There are two films that are choices for pleasant and unpleasant smells. At the delicious end of the scale would be Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, for obvious reasons. At the other, avoid-at-all-costs, end of the scale is another pick from Labyrinth: the Bog of Eternal Stench. Rumour is, if any part of you touches it you’ll smell terrible for the rest of your life…

Hoggle: And you wouldn’t be so brave if you’d ever smelled the Bog of Eternal Stench. It’s, it’s…
Sarah: Is that all it does, is smell?
Hoggle: Oh, believe me, that’s enough! But the worst thing is, if you so much as set a foot in the Bog of Stench, you’ll smell bad for the rest of your life. It’ll never wash off.

Watching a film at home is a very different experience to watching it at the cinema. The cinematic experience is a fantastic one, and one that I thoroughly enjoy: the gigantic screen, the surround sound, and the very real feeling of being ‘on the edge of your seat’ for certain films.

However, being at home and curling up on the sofa with your favourite drink, favourite snack and favourite watching partner is equally enjoyable. In my case, my two-seater sofa is set to ‘recline’ with my boyfriend and I wrapped under the duvet, the dog lying on top.

While the visuals and sound is most important for the cinematic experience, comfort is of the utmost priority at home.

Home cinema


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