BEFORE THE RAIN – the first film from Macedonia to win an international award (the Golden Lion for Best Film at the 1994 Venice Film Festival). It was also nominated for the Best Foreign Language Oscar). This film will be shown by CRANLEIGH FILM CLUB at the Bandroom on Thursday 22nd February starting at 7.30pm.
Written and directed by Milcho Manchevski, this first work has proved to be his only major success, but his talents run to photography, writing, art and teaching these subjects at New York universities as well as other world centres. His first film feature was a very personal journey.
Before the Rain is a portmanteau film where three stories are linked, intertwine and develop themes of love and revenge related to the political turbulence in Macedonia in the early 1990s not dissimilar to the turmoil and bloodshed in the rest of the Balkans at the time.
The first story starts in the mountains of Macedonia, the second is set in London, the third returns to Macedonia to complete a sort of illusionist circle. The first story concerns a monk and a young
woman who needs protecting by him, which leads to a dangerous journey. The second story has Anne, a picture editor, torn between two men, her husband and a disillusioned war photographer. The third brings the first two together when the war photographer returns to Macedonia to find his village divided and his Albanian neighbours are now his enemies. The war photographer decides to remove himself from the circle of hatred. The hatred we see is stronger than the love because it goes back a long way. There may be a lesson here for countries wishing to be part of a much larger conglomeration of lands seeking peace by bonding beyond ancient rivalries and jealousies.
Rather than say much more about the film I prefer to consider why this is third work from the old Soviet block to be shown in the first seven presentations of the film club. In Bloom (Georgia 2013), Burnt By The Sun (Russia 1994), and this work from Macedonia in 1995. All three are on the heavy going/grim side of the reaction monitor. Of the other three films, Fire At Sea is a 2016 Italian work about refugees from Africa landing on Lamedusa, another very down beat offering hardly lightened by a young boy playing in the island blissfully unaware of refugees. At The Height of Summer was an interesting exercise in female bonding in the face of male deception. This month’s film When I Saw You(Jordan 2012) concerns an Arab boy wanting to find his father, joining freedom fighters. The one film which has stood out to date as serious, entertaining and truly film art, and recent, was Julieta (Spain 2016). I shall not dwell on the remaining five films of the rather short 12 film programme. Suffice to stress there is no comedy, no British film, no French, German, northern European work and only one American film. So one has to ask why a third film from the East European/Russia area? Perhaps it will receive a standing ovation.
Last season the only film which did truly delight and overwhelm the audience was Tangerines, the only one shown from a country (Estonia) which was in the Soviet Union. That was art and a crowd pleaser but one from this geographic source per season is enough.