Review

Underneath the deceptive calm of ``Before the Rain'' (opening today at Bay Area theaters), director Milcho Manchevski creates a palpable current of imminent chaos -- a feeling that the center cannot hold much longer, that the sky is about to explode.
It's that sense of instability and possible tragedy, whether it occurs in the mountains of Macedonia or in a swank London restaurant, that Manchevski sees as a universal factor today. Nominated for an Oscar as best foreign-language film, ``Before the Rain'' is the first world-class film to emerge from the war- ravaged Balkans -- a sad tale of war, loss and nationalism.

First-time film maker Manchevski, who lives in New York and is best known for making an award-winning rap video with Arrested Development, returned to his native Macedonia, a former Yugoslavian republic, to make ``Before the Rain.'' It's an impressive debut: moving, beautifully shot, but also confounding.

INTERLOCKED PARTS
As Quentin Tarantino did in ``Pulp Fiction,'' Manchevski builds his film from interlocking parts -- three, in this case -- and then structures them out of sequence. The first, ``Words,'' takes place in rural Macedonia, a gorgeous place that seems unmarked by time, where a young monk named Kiril (Gregoire Colin) has kept a vow of silence for two years.

When he finds a young Albanian girl (La bina Mitevska) hiding in his bed, and she pleads for protection, Kiril has to wrestle with the vow he's made, and face the displeasure of the old, bearded monk who acts as his mentor.

In part two, ``Faces,'' a chic London photo editor named Anne (Katrin Cartlidge) is torn between her dull husband (Jay Villiers) and Alexander (Rade Serbedzija), the volatile, wild-hearted photojournalist who's just re- entered her life. When Alexander begs her to leave the country with him, she's tempted but declines. ``Have a good life,'' he says in parting. ``Take sides.''

Manchevski brings home his thesis -- that no one is untouched by the crises of the world, or exempt from responsibility for them -- when Anne finds herself in a bloody restaurant shootout. We never know who the gunman is, or why he opens fire: a case of deliberate vagueness on Manchevski's part, and one that doesn't enhance the film.

In various ways, Manchevski illustrates the interconnectedness of his characters. On a London street, we see a slash of graffiti that repeats the words of the old Macedonian monk: ``Time never dies, the circle is not round.'' In her photo studio, where Anne finds a false sense of insulation, she studies images of the doomed Albanian girl.

Finally, in the film's third section, ``Pictures,'' Alexander returns to his childhood home -- the same mountaintop village where Kiril, the young monk, lives. After 16 years' absence, and countless days on the front lines of international conflict, he's desperate for tranquillity, but finds no escape: His own village, he learns, is the next battleground.

Manchevski brings a grave, urgent quality to ``Before the Rain,'' contrasts it with the timeless beauty of Macedonia, and in the last part of the film ties his strands together -- adding information and surprising dimensions to scenes we've seen earlier.

His greatest asset, Rade Serbedzija, is a wonderful Serbian actor whose weary posture and sad face are emblems of spiritual depletion. Alexander's dilemma, he realizes too late, is that of the passive observer: By recording world events with his camera, and never participating in them, he's forfeited his responsibility as a world citizen, and lost a part of his soul.


LIGHTNING ROD
Ken Kesey said it well. After the Oregon author had stopped writing, friends asked him why. ``I'd rather be a lightning rod than a seismograph,'' he explained.

``Before the Rain'' has beautiful craftsmanship, strong performances and a nonlinear structure that's intriguing, if sometimes perplexing. It's a great introduction for Manchevski, and it marks the third time this year that an overseas film maker has scored with his feature-film debut.

``Shallow Grave,'' a comic thriller by Britain's Danny Boyle, is also world-class, as is ``Once Were Warriors,'' the Maori drama from New Zealand's Lee Tamahori.

© 2002 San Francisco Chronicle - EDWARD GUTHMANN


synopsis
production
review 1
review 2
review 3
awards
photo gallery
enter your email to receive update news
Mr. Nobody (Jaco Van Dormael) ?
Perfect
Good
Ok
Boring
Awful
  
results 
other surveys 



this month's featured album

composer | soundtrack | movie | director | forum | search | musicolog

CONTACT

© musicolog.com 1998 - 2017
design, content and code: mete