Katrin Cartlidge, Rade Serbedzija, Gregoire Colin, Labina Mitevska
Macedonia, formerly part of Yugoslavia and, since 1993, an independent republic, is the setting for much of this impressive debut film by writer-director Milcho Manchevski, a Macedonian native now living in New York City.
Although Macedonia isn't torn by full-scale war, the way some of the other former Yugoslav republics are, the country suffers nonetheless from persistent conflict between the Macedonian majority (Orthodox Slavs) and the Albanian-descent minority (Muslims). How that conflict affects the lives of the country's people is Manchevski's focus in a series of three interconnected and violence-filled stories. The first and last are set in Macedonia (a young Macedonian monk shelters an Albanian girl being sought by gunmen, and a globetrotting war photographer returns to his native village). The middle story takes place in London, where a British photo editor must choose between her husband and the photographer, with whom she is having an affair.
Before the Rain—an Academy Award nominee for Best Foreign Film—is filled with contrasting images of great beauty (religious icons, seascapes, the mountains at dusk) and of violence (gunmen standing guard at funerals, bullets flying in a stylish London restaurant, a terrorist shooting a cat). Manchevski's storytelling abilities do not yet have the self-assured sweep and coherence of his visuals, but Before the Rain is nonetheless a poetic statement. (R)