Richard Linklater is not your average filmmaker. His debut feature, Slacker, in 1991, caused a commotion in the media and public as he lent an entirely new meaning to “slacker”. For that generation, it did not mean “a person who evades military service” but a “young guy who was part of a subculture characterised by apathy and aimlessness”. Linklater was talking about his own experiences: in late ’80s in Texas nobody cared about movies. And to a certain degree he kept choosing projects that avoided the mainstream. The biopic Richard Linklater: Dream Is Destiny illustrates his career and work, and it also uncovers the fiercely independent arts scene that emerged from Austin, Texas.
Family and colleagues reveal that at a very young age Linklater would isolate himself in order to write. He kept all his early writings, though he admits he wasn’t ready to author a script. “It takes a long way until your technical abilities catch up with your ideas.” He then realised he wanted to be part of a collective; he wanted actors and crew to join the creative process, and this is what distinguishes Linklater from other ordinary filmmakers. His top priorities were never achieving technical excellence writing the ‘perfect script’. His films are always a work-in-progress and very much reliant on his collaborators.
Late North-American film critic Roger Ebert soon found out Linklater’s style: “We don’t get a story, but we do get a feeling”. Some actors couldn’t cope with this unorthodox moviemaking approach. The diva Shirley Maclaine, who was in Bernie (Linklater, 2011), once asked to him: “But what do you want?”. The answer was very succinct: “I want you!”.
Ethan Hawke (Jesse) and Julie Delpy (Céline) accepted for three times to act on the sequels, Before Sunrise (1995), Before Sunset (2004) and Before Midnight (2013). Linklater never planned a series. Accidently, he desired to film a relationship in time. In Before Sunrise, two characters meet in a train and feel attracted by each other. The plot is minimalistic, as not much happens. Because they have limited time together, they reveal more about themselves than they would normally do. When they meet up again, nine years later, Jesse is more cynical than Céline: he doesn’t tell her he is married. The third film, Before Midnight, was co-written by Linklater, Hawke and Delpy. While vacationing in Greece, the couple expose their perspectives on love, marriage and long-term commitment that are based on their relations with other partners.
The biopic also portrays Linklater’s box office failures, such as the animations Waking Life (2001) and A Scanner Darkly (2006). It seems that the non-narrative style has led to a big question mark: what the hell is going on?
On the other hand, Linklater’s most ambitious project gave him many awards and recognition. Boyhood (2014) was shot in 39 days and covered 12 years of a boy from Texas, a child of divorce. Mason (the boy Ellar Coltrane), Samantha (the daughter Lorelei Linklater), dad (Ethan Hawke) and mom (Patricia Arquette) agreed to take part in this movie that is considered a lifetime achievement. We learn about the difficulties of getting funds for a film that lacked unity and that would be completed after 12 years. Everyone involved had commitment and faith. The film feels extremely authentic, despite little cohesiveness in the narrative.
Richard Linklater still lives in Texas, away from the busy urban life and the spotlights of Hollywood. He is still telling his stories as if he was the boy who is skipping lessons in order to go to the library.
Richard Linklater: Dream Is Destiny is released in UK cinemas on November 4th. Watch the trailer below: