One of my favorite non-linear narratives is the 1994 Macedonian film _Before
the Rain_, by Milcho Manchevski. Unlike _Pulp Fiction_, to which it is
often compared, it cannot be rearranged afterward in the viewer's mind to
form a linear narrative. The chronology defies reality. The declaration
"Time never dies; the circle is not round," recurs several times in slightly
altered form. Although the film appears to come full circle and return to
the beginning at the end, the final sequence is not identical to the first.
I don't have the reference handy, but Manchevski has said that the seeming
"time paradoxes" in his film, when characters are at places and at times
they can't logically be, are meant to suggest not that we are trapped by
time, but that sometimes there may be an opening for escape.
History is not cyclical, but rather a spiral, where we come back to
nearly--but not quite--the same point, over and over. Inherent in this is
the possibility of breaking out of the spiral--in this case the death spiral
of ethnic hatred and violence. So, in this case the narrative structure is
not a clever gimmick, but contains within itself the "moral of the story."
The film compares ethnic and religious hostility in Northern Ireland to that
between ethnic Albanians and Macedonians in Macedonia. In light of recent
events in those two places, as well as in Israel and the U.S., the film
seems more timely than ever.
Peace and solidarity,
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