Monday, August 31, 2020

The Final Solution: Dr. Bedpan

Lisbon earthquake with tsunami looming
Voltaire parodied the delusory optimism of Leibnitz in his creation of Dr. Pangloss who infamously intones “all’s for the best in the best of all possible worlds” a homily that came on the heels of the great Lisbon earthquake of 1555. But what about outright nihilists and pessimists like Turgenev’s Bazarov in Fathers in Sons? What about an anti-Christ named Dr. Bedpan who cries out “all’s for the worst in the worst of all possible worlds?” The problem with millenarian pessimism is that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. While the optimist, however misguided, is a heat seeking missile when it comes to good, the pessimist trumpets the worst. There's glee on his or her face which says “I told you so.” “The masses are the asses,” is a phrase that pessimists enjoy repeating and while they will be the first to admit that there are great leaders whose lives have been devoted to combatting greed and self-seeking, they love to point out the inconsistencies and foibles of even the great. Gandhi may have slept in the nude with young girls to test his control, but it's an anecdote that only demonstrates how desires are always festering. And what about those rumors about Mother Theresa not being so saintly? Are the great and noble souls basically gratifying yet another desire, the wish for sainthood? What’s better? To be a windmill chasing optimist or Dostoevsky’s Grand Inquisitor accusing Christ of heresy?

Friday, August 28, 2020

The Final Solution: Sympathy for the Devil

Preaching to the choir is a precarious activity. It’s a little akin to Narcissus falling in love with his own reflection in the well and drowning. Essentially under the guise of trying to convince or convict, you're merely hearing the echo of your own voice. Remember being a teenager and pretending you were the Rolling Stones singing “Sympathy For the Devil” in the bathroom mirror? That’s about the level of reality one's talking about. Not preaching to the choir would be Greta Thunberg in the lineup at the current Republican Convention, speaking about the global warming. Not preaching to the choir would be having Anthony Fauci addressing the same body about the question of testing. Even if you believe you’re on the "politically correct" side of the fence, you should practice listening to those you despise. Democrats sat transfixed as Bill and Hillary Clinton, Cory Booker, Barack Obama, Kamala Harris and Joe Biden addressed the DNC, but many thumbed their noses at the RNC, inevitably aping the behavior of their counterparts on the right. But then again since it's only human to want to hear the sound of your own voice or ideas, what good does anything do, when push comes to shove?

Thursday, August 27, 2020

The Final Solution: The Living Dead

This is a time of collective nightmares. There was the bubonic plague that was the backdrop for the imaginative escape of Boccaccio’s Decameron. The Spanish flu of l918 was the impetus for Katharine Anne Porter’s Pale Horse, Pale Rider. Stephen King dreamed up The Stand as did Steven Soderbergh, Contagion one of the hottest items on the streaming circuit. Now Hurricane Laura is reeking havoc in South Texas and cities like Corpus Christi where coronavirus has been peaking have to contend with a double morbidity of a high order. Might it be said that calamities like these out do the spells wrought by turbulent sleep from which you at least can wake up. Certain kinds of art derive from catastrophizing while other works are a response to the calamities that have or are already occurring. In the case of The Decameron the fictions are both the tales and the characters telling them. The one reality is the plague. Michael Crichton for example conjured up The Andromedia Strain, though fictions based on horrific fantasy always run the possibility of being even more horrifying than reality. It’s one thing to be scared by Night of the Living Dead or The Invasion of the Body Snatchers and another to actually come upon zombies or blank eyed trauma victims acting like them walking around the neighborhood. Is this the age of retribution? Is mankind paying for its transgressions, in life as well as art?

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

The Final Solution: A Comparison Between Trump and Hitler

Are there similarities to Germany before the Second World War and the United States today? Certainly, the primary similarity is the abrogation of constitutional and democratic principles. And naturally there are similarities in the demographics, a large population of disaffected and disenfranchised workers (a "lumpenproletariat") who simply don’t care about principles like "inalienable rights" and "due process" which they look at as the language of an elite, a “swamp” which uses lots of pretty words and phrases to perpetuate its own power. The Versailles Treaty crippled Germany and created the mass discontent which was a fertile ground for the rise of fascism. It’s unclear what the correlation would be to America today. Perhaps the loss of jobs due to automation and technology? Donald Trump doesn’t look like Hitler. He's blond and doesn’t sport a mustache. He's large while Hitler and his Italian counterpart Mussolini were small. However, he harangues crowds in a similar way and he plays to discontent by pillorying his enemies. Statesmanship and presidential behavior are turned on their heads. Respectful discourse is treated as a lie with opponents being labeled with increasingly vile soubriquets., “Sleepy Joe,” “Crazy Bernie,” "Pocahontas,"  "Crooked Hillary.” Even though Trump’s a self-proclaimed billionaire, he's also makes himself one with his following by openly flouting the whole system including the method by which votes are cast and tallied, in order to disenfranchise the election process before it's started. The hell with ballots or voting or viruses. Trump like his predecessor in Weimar Germany has a messianic appeal in which the weight of truth is placed on oratory itself. He can say that hydroxychloroquine works or that one of the problems in the statistics of the current pandemic is simply too much testing and the words carry a magic that “trumps” scientific fact. Fascism is a juggernaut in which a tsunami of disaffection becomes the fuel for a charismatic speaker.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

The Final Solution: From Bad to Oblivion

No matter how bad anything may seem, there will come a time when you may look back wistfully to that very day when you were quarantining say and in a state of total incredulity as the president of the United States tried to usurp an election in the middle of a pandemic by walking away with the post office ("Postal Crisis Ripples Across Nation As Election Looms," NYT, 8/17/20). It will get worse and then it will no longer matter since you’ll be dead. So is the point to totally enjoy the completely fucked-up day you’re having and regard it as some kind of high point? Or is it better to be one more hand or arm outstretched towards the heavens? Are you better off joining the chorus of human misery? And if the cries are loud enough will they be answered? Is crying for mercy one way of exercising the right to vote, when the ballot box has actually been hijacked? The pathetic fallacy occurs when nature mirrors the feelings of the inner soul. What to do about the deceptively promising though dissonant feelings deriving from a beautiful summer’s day with the sun shining in a cloudless sky and birds chirping outside the window? Is that a sign? Or, is it just a coincidence that you should enjoy before the onset of the next tropical storm? 

Monday, August 24, 2020

The Defiant Ones

Stanley Kramer’s The Defiant Ones (1958) is a thriller about two escaped cons, Noah (Sidney Poitier) and “Joker” (Tony Curtis). On one level it’s a star vehicle and a kind of survival saga a la Deliverance. The two convicts are chained together, with one unable to make a move without the other. But the two characters totally dependent and intertwined  are also reminiscent of Beckett’s metaphysical duo Vladimir and Estragon. If you remember Waiting For Godot opened on Broadway only two years before in 1956. In one memorable scene, the feckless pair are trying to negotiate their way through rapids. There's a lot of push and pull a la Beckett and it’s not clear who’s saving or drowning whom. The same happens when they try to climb out of a mud pit in which they’ve been forced to hide. There’s also the obvious racial element in the script. Joker is a typical bigot who’s constantly reminding Noah of his place, but the irony is that in the end, when given the chance to escape, he’s totally dependent on his “partner in crime.” He can’t do without him. Spoiler alert. Though they’ve gotten rid of their chains by the end, they aren’t free of either each other or the law. The last lines of Waiting for Godot are famously Vladimir: "Well? Shall we go? Estragon: Yes, let’s go. They do not move." “Everybody winds up alone. Not just you. That’s the way it is,” Joker says. In The Defiant Ones, the human condition is the great leveler, creating a tutorial in equality. 

Friday, August 21, 2020

The Final Solution: Pharaoh's Dream

In the bible Joseph is summoned to interpret Pharaoh's dream in which the fat and emaciated cows would symbolize 7 years of plenty and 7 years of famine. Freud famously wrote The Interpretation of Dreams. The Egyptian leader was no doubt going to a Jewish therapist for help. Maimonides would famously go on to write the The Guide for the Perplexed. But when you think about it Joseph was not just the stereotypic Jewish therapist populating say a Woody Allen movie, but a prototypic financial analyst, a biblical Benjamin Graham, the economist whose The Intelligent Investor, with its theory of value investing was an important influence on Warren Buffett. In fact, he was providing the very kind of predictions that investors have always sought to know. You might say, in this case, it was a form of insider information since it resided in the Pharaoh's unconscious. If there's going to be a scarcity of oil or soybeans, you’re going to want to buy futures. In our current world, of course, there’s a disparity between the machinations of the stock market and the economy. How can one reconcile a spiking pandemic, high unemployment figures and racial unrest with rising prices on Wall Street? Is it not a singularity that deserves some degree of scrutiny when the financial markets are so completely out of the sync with the nature of life as it's being lived by a suffering nation?

Thursday, August 20, 2020

The Final Solution: The Stages of Despair

There are stages of death as Elizabeth Kubler-Ross pointed out in her landmark On Death and Dying. And there are stages of cognitive development as Piaget described. Then consider the metaphysical food chain beginning with the esthetic and ethical and ending with religious according to Kierkegaard. But what about despair? Are there stages of despair culminating in inconsolability? An enormous global experiment is now being conducted in which the comorbidities of racial injustice and contagion have been driving the barometer to new heights of desperation or lows of hope. There are phyla which exist in eternal darkness such as the creatures who inhabit the Mariana Trench at a depth of over 36,000 feet. But the fact is that survival in such extremes requires a creature to not only be adjusted but thrive under conditions where they are, for example, subject to tremendous water pressure and deprived of light. That's the essence of the Darwinian equation. Some prisoners who have spent lifetimes in institutions like the notorious Angola prison in Louisiana report finding it difficult to adjust to normal life. To survive under repressive conditions, you have to confer a certain normalcy on your predicament, accepting that at least in the present this is how life is. While resistance can be a saving grace, it can also mean death, for those who literally knock their heads up against a brick wall. There may be, in fact, a fine between rebellion and surrender. Those who accept desperation as the status quo sometimes turn out to be the fittests.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

The Final Solution: Sea of Grass

If you’re not a sexual athlete locked in the throes of an almost Flaubertian chasing of computer generated apparitions by the sheltering-in-place mandates, then you may very well find yourself returning to the old television shows of the 50s and 60s, Lassie, Bonanza and Little House on the Prairie which may better reflect your homebound life. Now that there are no restaurants to go to and if you can afford it, no cleaning personnel, dry cleaners or laundries, you are living the hand-to-mouth existence of the early settlers. Remember Jeff on Lassie and the chores he was expected to do on the farm? Sure the reality was that Jeff probably had his first sexual experience with one of the sheep, with Gramps taking a tumble in the hay in the barn, with a neighbor. But these kinds of shows advertising the myth of life on the great plains were not known for their cinema verité approach. Strangely the rather circumspect world of a television show with its covered wagons, farming and dangerous drunken cowboys or stagecoach robbers (read viruses) neatly encapsulate the very world that many isolated families and individuals are living as they attempt to make ends meet under difficult conditions and with increasingly limited resources. The Lone Ranger is almost a meaningless appellation today since most municipalities are requiring their townsfolk to wear masks. However, whether it was herdsman or farmers (and the antimony between these two elements was dramatized in Sea of Grass, (the l947 the Spencer Tracy/ Katherine Hepburn vehicle), life was often harsh and lonely for those trying persevere in the Old West, much as it is today in the age of coronavirus. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

The Final Solution: Collapse

Into Thin Air was Jon Krakauer’s recounting of l997 Everest Disaster. Sebastian Junger’s The Perfect Storm, later made into film, is another example of the genre dealing with a series of untoward events occurring at the same time. Then there is Jared Diamond's bestselling survey of fallen civilizations, Collapse. What all these works have in common is a dire forecast based upon a number of co-morbidities. The recent ammonium nitrate explosion in Beirut which has displaced upwards of 300,000 people, and whose cause is not terrorism, but simple carelessness, is an example of how one tragedy can beget another. The Lebanese economy, already dangerously out of control. set the stage for an unprecedented ecological disaster in a country already torn apart by a history of religious strife. Once known as the Switzerland of the Middle East, Lebanon was in its heyday a banking center, famed for its cosmopolitan society, where French culture and language were part of the affluent life enjoyed by the elite. Parenthetically Lebanon also enjoyed the reputation of being the Sodom in the otherwise sacred landscape of the Middle East, while also being a stronghold of Hezbollah. The United States is the richest and most powerful country in the world, but its citizens are banned from travel to EU countries partly by virtue of the failure to produce adequate testing facilities (in England test results are rendered in 90 minutes) that would control the continual spiking of outbreaks. The Roman Empire collapsed in 1000 years. Will the US celebrate it’s 300th anniversary?

Monday, August 17, 2020


Sometimes great historical figures behave like stock characters. Admiration is created by a certain degree of idealization. In the end Ben Kingsley’s Gandhi (1982) can seem both larger than life and closer to superhero status. That’s actually the pleasure of Reginald Hudlin’s Marshall (2017). Chadwick Boseman plays the young Thurgood Marshall and he’s almost typecast as a brilliant and swashbuckling NAACP defender who isn’t all that bad when with his fists when he’s attacked by bigots. Josh Gad who plays Sam Friedman, Marshall’s defense partner in the case of an Afro-American man Joseph Spell (Sterling K. Brown), accused of raping a white woman, Eleanor Strubing (Kate Hudson). Friedman has a paunch and wears glasses. He's brave but not so good with his hands. When he gathers his family up, you know they’re on their way to the synagogue. His son also wears glasses, as he sits in the back seat of the car. The movie begins with Friedman, an insurance lawyer getting his sleazy client off on a technicality. Can he use his talents in the service of the good? It’s all fairly predictable, but, at the same time, the kind of artifice that’s close to truth. What adds to the enjoyment is the fact that the story is an evidence-based cliffhanger a la Perry Mason. Will the unjustly accused defendant be freed? That’s the courtroom suspense (and it will keep you on the edge of your seat) but it’s a metaphor for the larger drama of Marshall becoming a leading figure in legal defense and jurisprudence and the first Afro-American justice of the Supreme Court.

Friday, August 14, 2020

What Does It All Mean?

Is there light at the end of the tunnel, either because or in the spite of the fact that it bends? One way of looking at the short foot note that defines the span of the average human’s subjectivity is to see the concatenations of human existence as constituting a meaning or  path. The root canal that almost made one faint from pain is a teaching device along with the hyper-scrutiny of an authority figure who may be suffering from a jaundiced view that has little to do with so-called reality. On the other hand, what if nothing makes sense? What if the universe or multiverse is indifferent? What about the cosmic yawn? Smugly self-satisfied individuals suffer from a complex set of delusions that may be confused with self-love. While you may be jealous of shit-eating grins, just realize that many of these so called happy or confident types are like chickens  still running around with their heads cut off.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

The Final Solution: Rush Hour

Pick some rush hour morning out of your memory. You arise from an uptown 6 exiting at Grand Central and walk across the concourse with its iconic information kiosk facing the lines of ticket windows above which the arrivals and departing schedules of trains to White Plains, New Haven, Hartford and Boston have perennially been listed. Perhaps think way back to the era when Kodachrome dominated the floor. In the days before the pandemic you climbed the stairs to Vanderbilt Avenue passing the Cipriani café, finding yourself swept out into midtown with its caverns of skyscrapers. Hard to image that the place which was once the center of the world is now an empty hulk with huge spires virtually emptied. The city has become a futuristic thriller. Just come out of the Viaduct any morning onto the deserted vista of Park Avenue with its iconic center islands. You've probably never cruised through empty midtown streets like this ever before. Manhattan has always been a 24-hour city and even in the wee hours before dawn there was generally a considerable night population to contend with. Today the buildings whose expensive naming rights were picked up by JP Morgan or Lever have been emptied of life. Long time inhabitants and lovers of the city, who may have vacated at the height of the outbreak, return to find a shell and ask themselves what is there to stay for in the once vibrant city, whose museums, galleries and theaters have all been shuttered?

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

The Final Solution: C-Day

You may be replaying your worst day best day scenarios. Pandemics have a way of testing the limits. Comorbidity is synonymous with perfect storm and the nature of the illness itself leads to ancillary problems that can easily accelerate a downward spiral. It used to be that you lost your girlfriend, wife or house in the same week or day. Coronavirus is a black hole whose very presence, whether you have it or not, is going to shake most people’s lives to their very core. Now centuries of racial oppression and the conconmitant economic inequality have literally become fatal. Domestic abuse cases have risen all through the weeks and months of the surge, as instability in the job market and isolation wreak havoc on lives. Just as the presence of the dark cloud is enough to make almost every day seem like a mini-Armageddon. Now what are your best days? When you see the chart showing a below 1% infection rate? When you see a flattening of the curve? When you hear that the DPA has been invoked to produce the kind of 90 minute tests that are routine now in England? Remember when life was simpler and your best day occurred when you found a job and an apartment and maybe even love?

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

The Final Solution: When Freedom is an Achilles' Heel

"Thetis Dipping the Infant Achilles Into the River Styx  (Peter Paul Rubens, 1625)
Why has the wall of division grown so big? A year ago, no one would have predicted that the country would find itself in the sorry state evidenced by the recent Times headline, "U.S. Is Alone Among Peers In Failing to Contain Virus," NYT, 8/7/20). Politics hasn’t changed. Trump still has his loyal base. However, what is striking is the degree to which the failed policies and attitudes alluded to in the piece, prevail despite all the suffering. Not only has the upsurge in cases, not resulted in a retrenchment. In some cases, such as that of the behavior of Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida, it’s led to a syndrome of further resistance to medical realities. Now the municipalities and teachers’ unions in certain counties are on course for a head-on collision with state government. It’s similar to the conflict that mayor of Atlanta Keisha Lance Bottoms has had with the governor Brian Kemp over mandating the wearing of face masks. Even among normally educated liberal voters the attempts to rein in freedoms has run into problems when it comes to a concerted effort to control the pandemic. The notion of individual freedom is such a deep-seeded element of the American character that it’s extremely hard to regulate, Trump or no Trump. In some ways Americans are like perpetual children who don’t like to be told what to do. The Volstead Act led to the roaring 20s. The famous "Schenck" case in which Oliver Wendall Holmes famously employed the example of “crying fire” exemplifies one attempt to point to limitations of freedom. There are numerous constitutional examples which involve the curtailing of freedom. For instance, the Bill of Rights pits the inalienable rights of the individual against those of a potential mob. The very thing that has made America strong is, in fact, its Achilles heel. The fact is in many situations you can’t do what you want. The state has to intercede to protect its citizens from themselves.

Monday, August 10, 2020

The Final Solution: An American Family

An American Family
People tell each other stories to ward off fears and also to pass the time during pandemics and storms. That’s the substance of Boccaccio’s Decameron, a series of l00 tales told by a group of Italians who have recused themselves in the town of Fiesole outside Florence during the plague. Another kind of story telling is taking place in series like Fauda, Babylon Berlin, Mrs. Meisel, Ozark and A French Village which are shown on services like Netflix and Amazon. These tales are not like movies or plays which are one shot affairs. They’re episodes which go on over time and actually mimic life which can sometimes feel like a set of installments. Hopefully an overview emerges in which the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Back in l973 An American Family took a real family’s life and turned it into a television series. The Louds, who were the subject, had a good deal of drama, but it’s not clear how diverting it would be if someone invented an app which allowed people to see their own life as a TV series. Let’s say someone came up with a device made especially for pandemics, an elaborate selfie that produced a series of seasons. What conventions would it possess and how would the story be wrapped up when say it came to the final episode?

Friday, August 7, 2020


Mesha Stele (Louvre), photo: Henri Sivonen

Religious relics and sites like the Shroud of Turin, Mecca and Jerusalem possess an enormous magnetism even for the secular imagination. The sociologist Max Weber used the term "disenchantment" referring to the force of scientism which removes the ineffable spiritual element from human existence. Bruno Bettleheim wrote an essay, Freud and Man’s Soul addressing  English translations of Freud’s work which attempted to lend credibility to psychoanalysis by increasing scientific terminology at the expense of the sublime. When you were a kid you may have seen the old 30s horror movies in which Oxbridge archeologists incur the wrath of dead Egyptian royalty when they attempt to invade sacred tombs. It’s hard not to see of a statue of Ramesses II or the tomb of Queen Hatshepsut and not feel stirred by a mixture of awe and fear. Will the walls begin to shake? After a parent or loved one has died many people feel the presence of a dead spirit in the room. A flickering lightbulb may be indicative of the presence of the departed. Whether there is one or not, you can safely say the deceased are alive and well in your imagination. You swat a fly or step on an ant. In reality, cremation is no different. The living form disintegrates. Even the bible intones “ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” Yet something indescribable remains. Bishop Berkeley famously said “esse est percipi,” “to be is to be perceived.” For him only God made the world real.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

The Final Solution: The Marriott International Space Station

This would have been a good time to join the space station for one of those extended stays that tests the limits of the human being’s ability to endure isolation. Everyone else social distancing back down on earth is inadvertently participating in a similar experiment with no payoffs. Just think of spinning in outer space with an addictive Netflix series like Fauda for company. With the comorbidities of racial inequality and coronavirus creating a perfect storm, it might even start to feel cozy up in the station. In addition, perhaps the orbiting traveler will even write a novel in his or her spare time, say with a transfixingly original title like Social Distancing. The Russian Cosmonaut Valery Polyakov chalked up 438 days in the Mir space craft from January l994 to March l995. With all the free time on one’s hands, a spacecraft would make a great writer’s retreat and one where you won’t have to worry about masks, gloves and Purell since there are no supermarket trips to make. Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and Elon Musk’s SpaceX were both partially founded to cater to the intergalactic blue stocking crowd. While the travel industry might be moribund with many flights canceled and the cruise business dead in the water, what could be a better bet for than Marriott or Sheraton than starting a chain of orbiting space stations for those who want be “far from the madding crowd?”

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

The Final Solution: Consciousness and Beyond

Timothy Leary at State University of New York at Buffalo l969 (photo: Dr. Dennis Bogdan)
Back in the 60s Timothy Leary and others sought to expand consciousness through the use of LSD and mushrooms that were filled with psilocybin. Are lockdowns and shelter-in-place mandates with their restriction of ambulation an opportunity for heady adventures? Boccaccio Decameron is structured as a psychic journey undertaken by a group of people quarantining outside Florence during the plague. Consciousness is one of the most stellar products of human evolution and its development went hand in had with advent of toolmaking by prehensile creatures.  However, can it be said that consciousness, a quality that few scientists still understand (is it a biological process like ingestion or something separate as dualists like Descartes famously argued), itself evolving, perhaps in ways that have never been conceived of before. Are technological emulations like A.I. helping to create new amalgams in which the products of man’s mind engender higher states of awareness. Could it be that one day consciousness will no longer occupy the highest rung on the food chain? Just when you felt like a total prisoner, forced to recuse yourself from the connectivity in which you once gloated, will you find yourself freed to explore whole new levels of the quality once known as “thought?” 

Tuesday, August 4, 2020


Sentence is an evocative word. It can refer to a grammatical structure or to a term meted out to someone who's accused of a crime. Sententia is the Latin for opinion which comes from sentire "to feel." Indeed a sentence is defined by the fact that it comprises a thought or feeling. A sententious person is one who excessively amplifies feelings. Today "No" is increasingly thought of as a sentence. When someone is sentenced for a crime they have plenty of time to think over their behavior. In certain societies one is sentenced for the expression of certain opinions, but life itself can be looked at as a sentence in the criminological meaning of the word. One is sentenced to life to the extent that one’s DNA  determines a rather restricted path. If you’re a believer in free will, you might say that individuals are given a lot of rope. A determinist might counter by adding "to strangle oneself with." The more you resist fate, as is evident in the case of poor old Oedipus who brought about his own downfall in attempting to avoid a prophecy, the more likely you are to be reined in by reality. In the meanwhile in your solitary abode, which at times affords the delusion of freedom, within the cell in which even the most swaggering personality resides, lies a profusion of words which ultimately constitute the legacy of a life.

Monday, August 3, 2020

Milcho Manchevski's Before the Rain

Milcho Manchevski’s Before the Rain (1994) is a film of astonishing brutality and beauty. It's also about modernity and  tribalism and about the conflict between Albanian Muslims and Christian Macedonians in the rugged landscape where much of the narrative takes place. The words from the Yugoslavian poet, Mesa Selimovic “With a shreik birds fly across the black sky, people are silent, my blood aches from waiting,” are the epigraph on which the film opens. They capture the violence that surges beneath the surface of every locale. Aleksandar Kirkov (Rade Serbedzija) a Pulitzer prize winning Macedonian photographer is a bridge between both worlds and he appears in two sections of a three part film titled “Words,” “Faces” and “Pictures.” He’s the modus operandi whose return to his native country sets the stage for the inexorable course of the tragedy.  Though Kirkov has become a cosmopolitan London journalist and photographer he’s lured back by the ancient internecine historical struggles that even make themselves present in an upscale London restaurant who maitre d' is significantly an Ulster native. There Kirkov’s co-worker and lover, Anne (Katrin Cartlidge) cradles her dead husband’s face after a gunmen take aim at the crowd. Kirkov's upscale brand of Western humanism is an anomaly in harsh landscapes in which he travels. One is reminded of Lattuada’s Mafioso (1962) in which the Southern Italian underworld exerts a hold over the modern life of Milan. “Time never dies, the circle is never round,” is the mantra that's repeated at numerous points in the film. In Before the Rain, the clash of cultures of underscored by the almost disconcertingly chic modernist esthetic which turns the violence on its narrative head.