What Jesse and Celine from ‘Before Sunrise’ can teach us about love

 

I’ve always adored the ‘Before’ trilogy of films because of how romantic they are, but also, how real. Jesse and Celine have the kind of love most of us dream of. That feeling of finding ‘the one’ on a train in Europe and spending a single, perfect night together. And then reality hits and fate tears them apart. But romance trumps again when they find each other in Paris in their 30s, just when they’re starting to get disillusioned by life and love. Then director Richard Linklater, in his infinite wisdom, throws us Before Midnight. Reality hits. Hands up who found it hard to swallow? Jesse and Celine are married with kids. They fight. They have cheated. They have a marathon screaming match from hell. Will they even survive?

I had the chance to ask Richard when I interviewed him for mX Newspaper about his new film ‘Boyhood’ (brilliant by the way), which is out in September.

Richard had this to say about killing the Jesse and Celine dream and/or an honest portrayal of how two people manoeuvre through life.

“It tests your definition of romance but I still consider it (Before Midnight) romantic.’’ he said.

“They have known each other for 18 years and they’re still talking and still wanting to sleep together so that’s pretty damn good. Fault lines are going to be apparent. At the start of all relationships you’re seeing connection – it takes much longer to identify disconnection.’’

I thought this was incredibly insightful. It’s so true. We look for connection so much in new love that we often make false connections just for the sake of connecting. Just so it can be perfect. It’s only as the crazy intensity of the love fades a little that we see ourselves clearly again; that we become fully ourselves again. And this is where the fault lines can occur.

Richard revealed that he still has hope for Jesse and Celine despite all the disconnection going on.

“I think it still is romantic – the first two films by their own definition are pretty romantic but this is how it’s different in your 40s to your 20s. It’s touching on the domestic. I felt we had to go into the belly of the beast of a relationship.’’

He said the film was a kind of litmus test of people’s own relationships. (Eeek).

“I had people coming out from seeing it who knew their own relationship was over. Others were inspired how they were going to make it – they still cared enough. Ultimately it’s a self-reflection; a litmus test of how you feel about romance or your own relationship.’’

I think Richard’s films are so touching because he explores how life is really a constant battle between romance and reality.

He says: “I think we all have our romantic ideas – not just coupling – romantic views of the world in general and then this reality you’re always bumping up against.  People are often trying to attempt to bend their realities to fit their desires to varying degrees and that’s what manoeuvring through life is.’’

What would a bestselling author advise her younger self?

I spoke to Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat Pray Love, while she was walking her dog one crisp winter morning in the woods near her home town of New Jersey. It was midnight on a hot summer night in Sydney. She was gracious, inspired, very smart and a bit puffed going up the hills. I asked what advice she’d give a writer beginning her career. This is what she said.

“Stay out of debt. Never go into debt to be an artist – it’s not fair to your art. Try not to ask your art to support you financially. Art is the only realm of human endeavour that doesn’t work on the simple principle that if you’re really good at it and you work really hard you’ll do well at it. So much of it is about luck and randomness. It’s about giving the project the time and space that it needs and not pressuring it to pay your electrical bill.’’

“Really expensive creative writing masters programs that people come out of with $75 000 worth of debt to be a short story writer… someone should be arrested for that. People do it to themselves as well. (They think) I’m going to quit my job and write my book and my book will pay for the years I didn’t work. You have to find another way to get by.’’

“Don’t go to war against your creativity. Recognise that if an idea comes to you it’s because it wanted you and it wants to help you, it really does. It’s not the inspiration that is tormenting me it’s my own obstacle. It really wants to be born; it wouldn’t have come and tapped me on the shoulder in the first place otherwise.’’

“Always choose creativity over fear. They’re conjoined twins. You can’t have creativity without fear but you have to make fear know it’s not making any of the decisions. It will come along and it will but it doesn’t get to decide things.’’

Elizabeth is in Sydney to promote her new novel The Signature of All Things. My full interview ran in mX Newspaper today.

Writing about love

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I write about love. Gosh, that sounds a bit embarrassing, doesn’t it? Like some AA admission only not as cool. Just to qualify, I didn’t start off writing love stories. I’ve never read a Mills & Boon. Oh, okay, maybe once, when I was about 13 and wildly curious. Love is just what came out when I started to field ideas and I started to write them down (in the vague hope that I might, ha! write a novel).

One of the things I’ve heard that writers should do when they’ve finished a piece of work in order to gauge its worth is to ask ‘how important is this’? Does it matter if this story is told? If it’s a story about life and death, we’d have to say, yes. And I think that’s why so many stories have love at their heart (so to speak). Love matters to all of us. Romantic, familial, friendship. It’s a soft and silent web that bonds us together underneath the hard surface of things. It breaks us and it mends us again.

So, how to write about love? I want to avoid being soppy at all costs but I also want to tell the truth about love. It is soppy, really, when you’re in it. It has your squidgy still-beating heart in its hands, ready to toss. I think I probably dip into the well of my own experiences more than I’m aware of. I think you have to. In my first novel Star Attraction, I’m writing about a famous actor Jamie Hall falling in love with a fairly cynical journalist, Madison Edwards (yes, I am a journalist but no, I am not as cynical as her). And unfortunately this scenario is not dipping into the well of my own experience. But I’ve dedicated the book to my husband because, frankly, I am about as crazy about him as a movie star. I think that for a lot of people choosing the big love of your life is scary. It was for me. It’s a little like jobs. Many of us end up working in our second choice for jobs. The risk in choosing the path we really want, the person we really want, is enormous. So I took the risk on the big love and I sacrificed a lot in doing so (just as my female character does).

I’m telling you this rather personal stuff because it’s taken me a long time to see these parallels between my life and my fiction. I don’t think I was dwelling on them as I wrote about Jamie and Madison. For some reason, when you write fiction, you need to reveal yourself, your truth, in your words, or it just doesn’t work. I don’t know exactly how it happens but it’s about being open, I think. You don’t have to be in love to write a novel about two people falling in love, but I think you have to have felt love. This is why most writers are in their 30s by the time their first novel is published. You need to live, absorb and to know about things in order to have something to write about truthfully and (you hope), with some insight.
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Which brings me to writing for love. When I talk to people who have kindly read my book, a lot ask why I do this; why I write. I did an interview with the author Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat Pray Love fame a little while ago, where I asked her the same question. Her answer was ‘love.’ Love of words; love of the sound and feel of them and the way they can affect you like a punch in the gut, or soothe like a smooth caress. Love of creating characters who surprise you all the time and talk their crazy little voices into your head.

But also, there is love for your reader. That sounds weird and creepy, I know, but writing is about sharing and connecting. It’s about revealing. It’s about saying, you know what? Things are really just crap sometimes. Do you feel this? I do. That’s why I read – to find these little nubs of soothing truth. To be able to roll them around in your psyche for a while and feel like there are others out there who feel the same. There is something very intimate about writing fiction. It’s your soul bared, wrapped in a concoction of stories. Like most art, it is in itself an act of love.

If you happen to be partial to a love story and it being Valentine’s Day this week and all, my publishers over at Penguin have a special on my novel, Star Attraction. You can buy the ebook here for less than a cup of coffee. But cross my heart, this won’t be a blog just about my book…It will be about my writing journey (and sometimes other random things too beautiful not to share). Hope you might come along, too.

What I write


I used to want to be a philosopher (deluded). For a while I thought maybe I could be a poet (more deluded). Now I’m a journalist and an author who feels like she’s gotten about as close as possible to those wafty dreams considering money needed to become involved.
My first novel Star Attraction came out through Penguin last year. I’m working on my second.
I write fashion, features and bits and pieces for Mx Newspaper.
I am a questioner, a lover of authenticity and someone who seeks out inspiration in words, stories, people and their style.
That’s the kind of stuff I’ll post here.