|A still from the classic romance Before Sunset|
There's a lot of nonsense in movies, and romances have perhaps more than their share. But not everything one finds in romantic movies is just sentimental wishful thinking. Is it possible to meet someone and immediately fall in love? Can immediate attraction and instant chemistry actually predict lasting love? Only in the movies, some might say. But that's not been my experience.
Recently I watched the movie Before Sunrise starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. It really doesn't have much in the way of a plot. Two strangers meet and walk around picturesque Vienna talking, and in the process falling in love. But the chemistry between the couple is compelling, and the simple tale of love at first sight resonated so strongly with me. I had two similar experiences in 1995, the year the film was released. Like Hawke's character I also met a beautiful young woman while traveling in Europe and ended up spending the last night before my travels continued, exploring the city with her (she was Dutch rather than French, and the city was Utrecht in the Netherlands rather than Vienna, Austria). However, there the similarity ends. There was no connection, no spark, no future. Though I had hoped there might be one at the beginning of the evening, by the end of the night I was walking Utrecht's streets alone. No, the more significant parallel experience happened a few months later in a less exotic setting---the campus of Andrews University in Southwest Michigan. Once again I met an even more beautiful young woman, and once again we spent hours together talking, only this time their was an immediate and palpable connection. I fell in love that first night, and well, eighteen years later, I'm in love still.
I think the key to that initial attraction--and what I really connected with in Before Sunrise--was how Babs and I fell so naturally into conversation. My first thoughts about Barbara, before we even spoke, when I saw her talking with others, was that I wanted to hear what this girl had to say. She fascinated me. And once we started talking, we kept going for eleven hours straight! And that connection through conversation remains one of the strongest pillars of our relationship today. There's still no one I'd rather talk to more, no one I find more interesting. We talk easily and honestly, and we always have.
I haven't seen the next two films in the Sunrise trilogy, Before Sunset which picks up nine years after the first film, and Before Midnight which is set yet another nine years down the road, though they're next up in my Netflix queue. I'm not sure how Jess and Celine's story will pan out, but if they're lucky they'll end up like Babs and me, 18 years since we first started talking, and still happily conversing ever after.