Dust (2001) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

Take a guess which actor plays this part: an idealistic soul who pines for the true love of a woman who must ultimately belong to another.

Is you guess locked in?

Joseph "Shakespeare" Fiennes is the answer.

He plays that role even more than Djimon Hounsou plays the forbidding, buff black man who glares imposingly, and who seems to present the threat of violence and intense sexuality, but is actually the possessor of great mystical wisdom, resigned martyrdom, the gentle forgotten secrets of older cultures, and an inner nobility and compassion that guides white people on their path to spiritual enlightenment.


As for the movie, well, nobody can accuse director Milcho Manchevski of lacking ambition. I don't know if I have ever seen a film where a director tried to do more things, and each of the things he tried to do was pretty damned daring as well.

How to describe it? Imagine if the old lady from Titanic had told, as her flashback, a version of Sam Peckinpaugh's The Wild Bunch, except with Billy Zane recklessly killing passengers with today's levels of ultra-graphic, ultra-realistic violence. Now throw in a secret chest of gold instead of the Titanic necklace, ala The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, and you've got the idea. Now imagine that her flashback also included its own flashbacks. And then imagine in her modern incarnation that she's involved in more shenanigans and crime action, and that she's telling her story not to friendly researchers, but to a guy who broke into her house. Oh, yeah, one more thing. Imagine that she keeps changing her story for several reasons, perhaps faulty memory, or perhaps just because she likes the embellished version better.

Sound confusing?

Well, there you have Dust, more or less. It is confusing at times, but it all makes sense, and is actually kind of cool if you pay attention.

An old lady prevents a guy from robbing her home. She forces the robber to listen to her story at gunpoint. Her story is about a Cain and Abel pair of brothers who end up fighting on opposite sides in a struggle in Macedonia at the turn of the century. The Macedonian part of the adventure alone is complicated enough or perhaps too complicated for a movie, because there are about four separate warring factions (Greeks, Serbians, Albanians, and Macedonians? Maybe. I lost track.) There are scenes where group A ambushes and massacres Group B, celebrating until they are in turn ambushed and massacred by group C. The brothers are aligned with various factions for various reasons - one is a bible-totin' idealist, the other is a ruthless mercenary.

In flashback, we find that the American brothers were both in love with the same woman back in the Wild West, although strangely enough, they all spoke with crazy non-American accents back then, and David Wenham (the bad brother) even put a few shrimp on the barbie, mate. The good one (Shakespeare) married her and wrote her some sonnets and shit, but she then had an affair with the bad one. And so forth.

And then there is the chest full of gold.

Meanwhile, back in the present day, the old woman loses control of her hostage because she turns gravely ill, but he comes back anyway, making a pilgrimage to hear the rest of the story. He's interested in what happened to the gold, of course, but he's also just plain interested in the old lady and her relationship to the story she is recounting, and he wonders if anything she said is true, since she freely admits to making up whatever she cares to.

Alternating between many time frames and sub-plots, alternating between fantasy and realism, shifting genres from spaghetti western to modern-day gangster film to historical war epic to sentimental romance, this film dares to go anywhere and everywhere.

As Variety wrote:

It's too arty to cut it as a violent action pic and too gore-spattered to appeal to the arthouse crowd.


  • Anne Brochet - breasts and buns
  • Anonymous hooker - breasts and buns in a bathtub scene. Her crotch is also on camera briefly, but it's obvious that she's wearing a patch.
  • Rosemary Murphy - she shows her breasts, but I don't think you'll find it very arousing. She's 76 years old, and she was getting CPR at the time.

DVD info from Amazon

  • widescreen anamorphic

Well, Variety is right, and yet ... if it doesn't really work perfectly, you have to admire the sheer reckless bravado of a director who would try such a thing. Like PTA in Magnolia, this director is too crazy to know the quixotic nature of the project or the precise odds he's facing by trying to make such a ludicrous and complicated premise work. Frankly, I like when these ambitious directors throw common sense and caution to the wind and just make films filled with passion and craziness. After all, isn't that a big part of what we like about films to begin with?

The Critics Vote ...


The People Vote ...

The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this is a C. Crazy film. Sensitive and insensitive and insane all at once. Sometimes confusing, and not very well acted (Americans all played by non-Americans who can't do the accent), but ultimately, quite appealing to me. If not a masterpiece, at least an ambitious attempt."

Tuna added, "Scoopy very much admired the film, as much for its ambitions as for its execution. I was not as entertained. I frankly found scene after scene of gunfights tedious. This is a C."

Return to the Movie House home page