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.

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