Storytelling by train, boat and spinning around the sun.

A somewhat dreary Chicago weekend and an entirely open calendar lead to a lot of napping, a little shopping and ending the day rewatching 1995’s Before Sunrise and the 2004 sequel Before Sunset.

I saw each of the movies in the theater and I’m not sure that I’ve seen either more than once before last night. I was certain the films wouldn’t hold up, that the situation and characters would seem contrived, pompous, annoying. Luckily, I was wrong and these gems maintained their essence 17 and 7 years later.

Before Sunrise was filmed in the summer of 1994. The Clinton administration was a time of peace and a strong economy. A good time to travel as an American. The Euro was still 4 years away, although the European Union was two years into life.

The Troubles weren’t quite over in Northern Ireland, but the First Intifada had just ended in Israel.  Years before 9/11, our parents could still meet us at the gate in airports. We traveled without mobile phones, the trains didn’t have wifi or AC plugs. We traveled with mixed tapes, discmans and books.

Google didn’t exist yet.

Before Sunrise captures a moment we didn’t know was about to change so drastically. It couldn’t happen today. We don’t meet people without leaving digital crumbs in each other’s lives. Even if you don’t friend each other, you will certainly leave 15 hour conversation with enough information to find them when you get back to your computer.

Even in the shortest conversation, I can head to a computer and fill in the blanks. There are very few people from my past that I can’t find through a bit of online research. Conversations that didn’t last long enough, scribbled notes that didn’t include last names, details fogged by years and incomplete journal entries.

Have we lost the magic and serendipity from the time of Before Sunset or, as I’ve often argued, does social media increase our serendipity? Would I follow a man off a train in Vienna to talk for the evening – perhaps. Would I tweet my location to account for safety – yes. And inviting others in by tweeting out… would that ruin the moment and the conversation?


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