Brothers in arms. Fiennes and Wenham face off in the Balkans
dir-scr Milcho Manchevski
with David Wenham, Joseph Fiennes, Adrian Lester, Rosemary Murphy, Anne Brochet, Nikolina Kujaca, Vlado Jovanovski, Vera Farmiga, Matthew Ross, Meg Gibson, Salaetin Bilal, Tamer Ibrahim
release UK 3.May.02; US 23.Aug.03
02/Macedonia-UK 2h04

1 out of 5 stars
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
where does your voice go? Acclaimed director Manchevski (Before the Rain) is back with a wild Western set in both the US and his native Macedonia ... but he tries so hard to be arty and inventive that he fails on almost every level. It opens as a petty thief (Lester) burgles a Manhattan apartment and is caught in the act by a tough old woman (Murphy), who forces him to listen to her rambling story about two brothers who lived at the turn of the last century. Luke and Elijah (Wenham and Fiennes) were both in love with a prostitute (Brochet). She marries Elijah, sending Luke off to Europe to find himself. He ends up fighting in the war in Macedonia, a confusing mess of violent gangs and warlords. He's attracted to the young and very pregnant Neda (Kujaca), but keeps his distance out of respect for her husband, the gang's "teacher" (Jovanovski). Meanwhile, back in New York in the present day, the old woman gets sick and threatens to die before getting to the end of the story.

The offbeat structure actually works, but Manchevski makes everything so artificial that you can't believe a single scene. Characters are continually doing improbable things, and the writing and direction is derivative and rather ham-fisted--predictable twists, cliched characters, incoherent action. The main problem is that there are no actual relationships in the entire film. Every "romance" is actually just lust; there's no reason why Lester's and Murphy's characters would be remotely interested in each other; even the brothers don't act particularly realistically. Wenham is superb in his role, which fortunately requires minimal dialog (his accent is too broad, as is Fiennes' in a much smaller, less defined role). And the women are never remotely developed at all, so why anyone would be so obsessed with them is anyone's guess. Manchievski does have a clever eye at times, there are some wonderful themes at work in here if you look hard enough, and the Macedonian scenery is stunning--a wonderful spin on the Old West. But this is an utter shambles of a film.
adult themes and situations, violence, language cert 18 6.Mar.02

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... "Exciting film about the art of storytelling. The western part is a metaphoric story old Angela tells Edge. She actually tells him a love story before she dies; he carries on the story, having learned the lesson and carrying on the pic's main theme: where does our voice go, when we are no more? As every story we tell out of our memory, it is fractured, seen from different points of view, not always complete. Structure of the film works perfectly with the theme. A brilliant challenge to current standards of moviemaking - with a breathtaking look of present day New York and stunning Macedonian landscape." --Iris Kornhauer, Berlin 30.Mar.02

where does your voice go? "The film (not the movie) appears to have two 'major flaws': (1) it requires an intelligent and an interested/engaging individual for 100% satisfaction; (2) although generaly universal in the themes, it requires a bit of a background about recent Macedonian history for a full understanding. For (1), well one can't do much about that I'm afraid. Maybe one can put in a bit more effort. As far as (2) is concerned one could always read a 1-2 page summary of what is a very complicated issue indeed, Macedonian struggle for independence at the turn of the 20th century. By the way, to an ordinary Macedonian, or Norwegian for that matter, the battles in Gone with the Wind might not mean much at all, and although it is a lemonade love story it is a good one nevertheless. The telling of the story is typical for the director--brave and intelligent. Fans of cluey films will love it. It might need watching it more than once to point out the imposibillity of an event to occur at a certain moment, Manchevski did it again (remember Before the Rain?). The acting ... who said that the acting needs to be convincing? And who said it wasn't? And the music ... I reckon it is exceptional. Electronic, Macedonian ethno and all mixed up, James Brown. This film is not a movie, it needs to be consumed, that's all." --M Galevski, Sydney 16.Dec.02

2002 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall