ⓘ Before the Rain (1994 film)
Before the Rain is a 1994 film written and directed by Milcho Manchevski. The film stars Katrin Cartlidge, Rade Serbedzija, Gregoire Colin and Labina Mitevska. It features an original score by the Macedonian band Anastasia. Before the Rain consists of three interlocking stories set both in North Macedonia and London. The film addresses the ethnic and religious roots of violence and hatred in the Balkans as well as some international implications of the tragic regional conflict.
Before the Rain received positive reviews from film critics who praised the message it sends to viewers in light of the events during the time of its release. It was included in the List of Best 1.000 Films Ever Made compiled by The New York Times. The film won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. It was also nominated in the category for Best Foreign Language Film at the 67th Academy Awards in 1995, marking North Macedonias first nomination in the award show.
Set against the background of political turbulence in North Macedonia and contemporary London, three love stories intertwine to create a powerful portrait of modern Europe in Milcho Manchevski’s Before the Rain.
When a mysterious incident in the fabled Macedonian mountains blows out of proportion, it threatens to start a civil war, and brings together a young monk who has taken a vow of silence, a London picture editor, and a disillusioned war photographer in this tragic tale of fated lovers. Told in three parts that connect in an illusionistic circular narrative, and linked by characters and events, Before The Rain explores the uncompromising nature of war as it ravages the lives of the unsuspecting, and forces the innocent to take sides.
In the first episode, Words, we meet Kiril, a young monk who has taken a vow of silence, who stands up for Zamira, a young Albanian girl who is accused of murder and is on the run from a mob. For her sake, Kiril leaves the monastery and the two of them make their way through the Macedonian landscape, but their romance is heading towards a sudden and brutal end.
Faces is set in bustling and trendy London. Anne, a picture editor, is torn between the love of her husband Nick and the attraction she feels for Aleksandar, a disillusioned war photographer. She is pulled into a series of tragic events, culminating in tragic events in a chic restaurant.
The third and final story, Pictures, brings the two previous stories together. It focuses on Aleksandars return to North Macedonia to settle. He learns that the war has divided his home village and that his Albanian neighbours are now seen as enemies. Hana, an Albanian woman he was, and apparently still is, in love with, asks him to take care of her daughter Zamira. While Aleksandar sets out to find the girl, a storm is building on the horizon, and the film returns us to its beginning.
1.1. Plot Story notes
Upon watching the film, the viewer sees that the sequence of sections could have been any of three. An intended inconsistency becomes apparent. The end of Words shows Zamira gunned down and killed by her family when she tries to escape them. Still photos of the scene are shown in Faces. Suddenly the reappearance of Zamiras photo and Kirils voice in a telephone call in Pictures, coupled with the ending, which returns to the beginning, could temporarily hoodwink the viewer that this is the first part of the film. But a close observation of the man lying dead near the beginning of Words shows he is Aleksandar Kirkov, while Zamira is hiding in Kirills after having killed one of the Macedonians. Faces, set in London, has a living Aleksandar Kirkov, whose close friend Anne is developing black-and-white pictures of a dead Zamira. The motto of the film is, "The Circle is not Round." The message is written as graffiti on a wall shown in Pictures and is repeated in the other two parts by Father Marko. The director suggests that in life, people and places may change, but overshadowing scenarios such as conflicts go backward and forward in a cycle.
One of the main points of focus in the film is the ethnic clash that existed between Orthodox Macedonians and the Albanian Muslim minority in the early 1990s. It offers a view on how sociocultural norms and mechanisms can give rise to nationalism that grows into phobia of the foreign. Additionally, through the character of Aleksandar, the film offers a view of the "cultural shock" and foreignness he experiences upon reintegrating and returning to his home country after being away.
The creation of the film served partly as a homecoming for Manchevski, who had lived in New York City since the 1980s. That said, the film was initially not set in North Macedonia. Manchevski had originally hoped to sidestep political specifics by setting the film in an anonymous country.
The films non-linear three-act structure was inspired by Aleksander Petrovics film Three 1965. The film also contains allusions to Sergei Eisenstein, Andrei Tarkovsky, and others. For example, the scene where Aleksandar whistles "Raindrops Keep Fallin on My Head" while riding his bicycle is a conspicuous nod to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, directed by George Roy Hill.
4. Release and box office
The film was distributed in more than 50 countries. It was a hit in the cinemas in Italy, Sweden where it stayed in the theaters for 54 weeks, Turkey, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, FR Yugoslavia, etc. In the US theaters it grossed $763.847.
5. Critical reception
On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 92% based on 36 reviews. The websites critical consensus reads, "This haunting anti-war film offers insight into the reasons for the long history of ethnic wars within the Balkan states." Film critic Roger Ebert described Before the Rain as one of the best films of the year and dubbed it "extraordinary". He further praised Manchevskis "clear, ironic, elliptic style" and called it "an art film about war, in which passions replace ideas".
Although the film was popular with many critics, some including Slavoj Zizek criticized it for reducing geopolitical conflicts to stereotyped parables optimized for western consumption.
6. Awards and nominations
At the 67th Academy Awards that took place in 1995, the film was nominated in the category for Best Foreign Language Film, marking North Macedonias first nomination ever in the award show. However, it lost to the film Burnt by the Sun by Nikita Mikhalkov. The film also won the Golden Lion at the 51st Venice International Film Festival, alongside Vive LAmour by Tsai Ming-liang. It was also nominated for the Grand Prix in 1996 by the Belgian Syndicate of Cinema Critics. In addition to the aforementioned awards, the film also won 30 other awards.
- Warsaw Film Fest, 1995: Audience Award
- Mons Festival, Belgium, 1995: Charlot dor
- Burgos Festival, Spain, 1995: winner of the single Festival Prize
- Gorizia Festival of Screenplay, Italy, 1995: Best Screenplay
- Venice 1994: Premio Cinemavenire Young Viewers Prize
- Venice 1994: Francesco Pasineti Syndicate Award for Best Actor to Rade Serbedzija
- Venice 1994: Audience Prize
- Venice 1994: International Catholic Organization for the Cinema
- Toronto Festival 1994: runner-up in audience vote
- Mediterranean Prize for Peace and Tolerance
- Panteleria, Italy, 1995: UNESCO Prize
- Film Critics Association of Turkey 1995: Best Foreign Film
- Venice 1994: Leoncino doro, awarded by the Italian students
- Venice 1994: FIPRESCI Prize International Critics Prize
- Puerto Rico Festival 1994: Jury Award for Best Film
- Puerto Rico Festival 1994: Best Director
- Austria, 1995: Catholic Film Commission Prize
- Film Forum, Bratislava, Slovakia, 1995: Best Film
- Puerto Rico Festival 1994: Best First Film
- Venice 1994: The UNICEF Prize 1994
- St Petersburg Festival of Festivals 1995: Grand Prix
- São Paulo Festival 1994: Audience Award for Best Film
- Stockholm Festival 1994: Best Debut Film
- Venice 1994: Rolling Venice Award from the City of Venice
- Puerto Rico Festival 1994: Audience Award for Best Film
- Venice 1994: Kodak Award for Best First Feature
The New York Times writers Vincent Canby and Janer Maslin included Before the Rain in their book The New York Times Guide to the Best 1000 Movies Ever Made published in 1999. The film has been part of the curricula at numerous universities and in the Italian and Turkish high schools. An interdisciplinary academic conference in Florence was dedicated to the film, and it has been the subject of numerous essays and books. Katarzyna Marciniak, a scholar from Ohio University argued in her essay that the film, in addition to being a cautionary tale for people from the Former Yugoslav Republic, it also served as a message to Westerners and American citizens "to recognize the problematic doubleness embedded in the concept of national identity".
8. Home video releases
- It has also been released in Italy, Brazil, UK, France, Turkey, North Macedonia, Japan, Argentina, and Mexico.
- 2008 The Criterion Collection, Region 1 DVD Spine #436, June 24, 2008 - Includes audio commentary by Milcho Manchevski and film scholar Annette Insdorf, an interview with Rade Serbedzija, a short 1993 documentary about the making of the film, and an essay by film scholar Ian Christie.
The music for the film was written and performed by Anastasia. It was released on a CD in 1994 by PolyGram Records, and sold thousands of copies worldwide.
The song Sanjam by Indexi is also briefly featured.