Astrology: Film: ‘Before Midnight’ (2013)

Sony Pictures Classics

Relationships are no better than the communication that cultivates and perhaps dooms them. There’s no grander cinematic illustration of this hypothesis than Richard Linklater’s Before Midnight, which revisits American Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Frenchwoman Celine (Julie Delpy) years after they meet neat in Before Sunrise (1995) as young adults, and several years later when Jesse is married to someone else in Before Sunset (2004). In the latest installment, Before Midnight, in which both Hawke and Delpy share screenwriting credit, communication does not foster and console. Celine uses it as a dagger – her talky Mercurial powerhouse combining with the control, manipulation and power-mongering of Pluto – bringing the relationship thisclose to an irreversible shutdown as one can get.

The duo – Jesse, a successful novelist, is divorced from his first wife – have now gotten together for real and have twin daughters. They’re at the tail end of an idyllic vacation in southern Greece with the family of one of Jesse’s literary colleagues. Seeing the couple and their twin daughters traveling by car elicits a collective sigh of relief, as though the union is a reward for making good on their destined connection years earlier.

But what’s this? The Greek sun has found a dangerous fuse within Celine that doesn’t need much instigating to ignite. She’s been offered a nice job promotion in France, and she interprets Jesse’s mentioning how he’d like to spend more time with his son, who’s spent the summer with dad and Celine, as a threat to her professional advancement that will also require her to move to Illinois with Jesse. Celine’s insecurities and anger mount and then explode at the pair’s romantic getaway, a going-away gift from the assortment of Greek guests.

In true Plutonian fashion, Celine jumps on Jesse’s every word and turns the conversation, Mercury’s bailiwick, into a one-sided series of vicious and increasingly caustic diatribes. It’s speech as a weapon. As Jesse says, “It must be terrible carrying so much female oppression.”

One character describes this Greek paradise as “thousands of years of myth and tragedy” which, in Before Midnight, arguably includes marital strife. Stefanos, one of entourage, describes it best: “We’re not fighting, we’re negotiating.” Another visit with the true-to-life lovebirds, please.

Astrology Film Rating: ☿♇ (Mercury, Pluto)

 

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