Dust (I) (2001)
A New York thief, a tough-as-nails hundred-year-old woman, two brothers from the Wild West, a Macedonian revolutionary and a beautiful pregnant woman, all cross paths in a tale that spans two continents and three centuries.
A New York thief (Edge), a tough-as-nails hundred-year-old woman (Angela), two brothers from the Wild West (Luke and Elijah), a revolutionary hell-bent on liberating Macedonia from the Ottoman Empire (The Teacher), and a beautiful pregnant woman (Neda), all cross paths in a tale that spans two continents and three centuries. Its fractured narrative resembles a Cubist painting.
Two parallel tales of redemption, a century apart. A burglar is held at gunpoint and forced to listen to a story. At the turn of the 20th Century, two brothers feud over a woman. She marries one; the other, Luke, a deadly gunslinger, becomes a soldier of fortune in Macedonia, and gets embroiled in a local revolution. He's after money. Wounded by his brother, he's nursed by a pregnant villager who urges him to "kill for good, not for gold." A dying old woman in modern Manhattan tells Luke's story; her listener is Edge, a young thief who's burgled her flat to pay off crooked cops who can send him to jail. He listens with the desperate hope that he'll find gold that he thinks she has. The stories intersect when Edge sorts out the old woman's surprising connection to Luke.
- ''Dust'' begins with a darkened room that Edge has just broken into. He's prowling the apparently empty place for valuables, casting around and finding nothing but old photographs, some of which seem to date to the beginning of the 20th century. He is surprised in his dirty work by the place's elderly inhabitant, Angela. He hits her, but before he can escape, she whips out a large antique -- but still functional -- six-shooter and proceeds to prattle on about her life. Her tale, unfolding in black-and-white, is the story of two brothers, the lusty outlaw Luke and the virtuous, religious Elijah.
Their story starts in the Old West, with a fight over a prostitute, whom they both love and Elijah marries. The resulting envy and bitterness send Luke fleeing to Macedonia. After seeing a silent film about the region and its lawlessness -- an external turmoil obviously meant to mirror his own inner conflicts -- and a bandit known as Teacher with a huge price on his head, Luke also decides it's a place to make his fortune.
Mr. Manchevski suavely shuffles his various narratives, sometimes smoothly presenting the juxtaposed tales and on other occasions cutting violently from one story to another. The literal violence -- gun battles and punches detonating all over both stories and leaving a spray of intentional confusion -- is staged with bracing clarity.
When Luke arrives in Macedonia, the screen is deluged with hot, bright desert colors that are oddly soothing to him given the foreign locale. The director signals that he is as unreliable a narrator as Angela because communicating emotion is more important than relaying facts in ''Dust.'' He wants to convey the sense of being torn, which both Luke and Edge feel. Edge is hustling for money because a pair of thugs he owes are slowly -- and happily -- breaking parts of his skeleton piece by piece until they're repaid.