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Before The Rain Review

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In three seperate stories connected by an act of violence, a monk rescues a young woman from an angry mob, a journalist engages in an affair and a photographer returns to his home village.

★★★★

A contender for this year's Best Foreign Language Film Oscar and proud possessor of half a Golden Lion from the Venice Film Festival, this international co-production addresses, albeit from an oblique angle, the chaotic slide into race war in the former communist block. Though full of references to the conflict in Bosnia (and Ulster, for that matter), Manchevski's film is mainly concerned with tensions between Christians and Muslims in a hinterland between Macedonia and Albania, while the central episode of its trifold story is set in a strange looking London.

These three tales, connected by the never-seen killing of a Macedonian shepherd by an Albanian girl, focus on outsiders drawn into escalating violence. A silent monk (Colin) shelters the fugitive girl and falls in love; an English woman (Cartlidge) has an affair with an exiled photographer; and the photographer (Serbedzija) returns to his village to find it divided into armed camps. Inevitably, each story ends with someone needlessly gunned down by someone else who didn't really mean it.

Like Pulp Fiction, Before The Rain tells its stories out of chronological order allowing characters to come back from the dead. And there is a surreal sense to the overall plot as things come full-circle to a conclusion that occurs out of sequence, giving the film a tragic resonance.

Well played, with a number of affecting and scary little moments (children playing with real guns), this opts a few too many times for the obvious irony, but it has an unnerving feel, angrily observing the way meaningless violence can suddenly blossom and suck in innocents.

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