Before the Rain tells the stories of an orthodox Christian monk, a British photo agent, and a native Macedonian war photographer to paint a portrait of simmering ethnic and religious hatred about to reach its boiling point. This gripping triptych of love and violence is also a timeless evocation of the loss of pastoral innocence, and remains one of recent cinema's most powerful laments on the futility of war.Written by
The film begins with a pan over a Macedonian sky covered by dark clouds at dusk. We hear sounds of thunder, when an epigraph from the novel "Dervis i smrt" (The Dervish and Death) by Mesa Selimovic appears on the screen, while a voice is heard reading it: "With a shriek birds flee across the black sky, people are silent, my blood aches from waiting". Afterwards, the titles appear. See more »
The wars in former Yugoslavia have resounded in every corner of that region, and have ignited all manner of subsequent ethnic and religious conflicts within the newly-formed republics. Focusing world attention upon the region through the media has occasionally had the positive effect of raising awareness of the conflicts through art. The work of artists from former Yugoslavia has found an appreciation that has never really existed before, partly due to the fact that they are the most fit to interpret the events there. The republic of Macedonia is certainly experiencing its share of strife.
Nestled in between the countries of Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece, and Albania, it is surrounded by strained relations on all sides, countries that have refused to recognize its autonomy for a long time. A significant Albanian Moslem minority feuds with the dominant Orthodox Christian Slav population. Hardly a week passes without a new arms network running from Alabania to Macedonia being discovered. Despite the presence of U.N. peacekeeping forces, armed skirmishes ravage the countryside.
Milcho Manchevski left his native Macedonia to pursue a college education in the U.S. He studied film at Southern Illinois University. Upon graduating, he moved to New York and began working on commercial, experimental films, and music videos. BEFORE THE RAIN is his first full-length feature, for which he returned to his native country to make. He was able to secure British and French financing with his creative, authoritative and topical screenplay. An inspiring tale about the senselessness of war and the fragility of humans and their loves, the film is, despite some minute flaws, one of the most passionate and sublime cinematic statements of the '90s.
It has an intriguing, if not wholly original non-linear narrative structure. Through three episodes titled, "Words," "Faces," and "Pictures," respectively, the viewer is introduced to three characters whose lives interconnect from minute to strongly significant ways.
Kiril (Gregoire Collin, of OLIVIER, OLIVIER) is a young novice in an Orthodox monastery who cannot help but hide Zamira (Labina Mitevska), a fugitive Albanian girl, from the villagers who want to execute her for murdering a shepherd. He does it out of the goodness of his heart, but perhaps also out of the beginnings of a lustful affection for her. They flee north in an attempt to find Kiril's uncle in Skopje, and meet with dire hardship and tragedy.
Meanwhile, in England, Anne (Katrin Kartlidge, most familiar as the lisping goth girl from Mike Leigh's film NAKED), a photo editor is in the midst of a personal crisis. She is becoming more and more disaffected with her husband Nick (Jay Villiers) while experiencing a difficult, confused relationship with her lover, Aleksandar (Rade Serbedzija), an award-winning native Macedonian photographer. Unsure of what to do, she distances herself from both men, but cannot stem the tide of the turbulent events all around her. The story dispenses with her husband in somewhat contrived way, and she ends up trying to find Aleksandar, who has since left for Macedonia.
Aleksandar returns to his native village, only to find that the overall climate has radically changed, and the simple life he tries to rediscover has since been made more complex by the feuds with the Albanians. His return is met with mixed reactions from warm welcomes from his close friends, to cold-shouldering by the newly-armed local anti-Albanian faction, to outright hatred from some of the Albanians. When his childhood love from a neighboring village seeks his aid to help protect her daughter, Aleksandar is thrust into the heart of the conflict, and his refusal to takes sides has tragic repercussions.
Serbedzija interprets the role with a noble, morally centered sense of confidence. One of former Yugoslavia's most well known and respected actors Serbedzija found his role to be a way of protesting the conflicts in his region-"As an artist, as someone well-known, I had to speak out against nationalism and war. As Aleksandar was presumed to take sides, so was I. It's my story. What ends up happening to Aleksandar, when cousins take arms against cousins, has happened to many in former Yugoslavia and it could happen to me."
With its non-linear structure, the time-line of the film is somewhat incoherent, and there are some plot developments in the middle segment, occurring in England, which are a bit too pat. These are balanced by the striking, somewhat exotic visuals and original, exhilarating neo-ethnic music by a group called Anastasia, fine acting (especially by Collin and Serbedzija), and an overall poignant sense of the waste of war, even a war in its beginnings.
Manchevski illuminates his use of the film's title-"There was this sense of something heavy beginning to happen, something looming in the air. At the same time life was continuing as before. This story doesn't deal with the political aspects of how wars start. It's about human passion and how it can lead one in different, unexpected directions. It's about how a war somewhere in the world might get started and how that can affect your life regardless of where you are. Ultimately, it's about taking sides."
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