Imports take on morally complex themes

US filmmakers aren't alone in their study of violence.

Critics often chide Hollywood for its fascination with violent action, but filmmakers in other lands have also been drawn to subjects linked with violence and its challenges. When such directors take a constructive approach, the results can shed light on social and cultural issues.

The Terrorist, an Indian production, is coming to American theaters after having its US premire in the Human Rights Watch Film Festival last summer.

Although its title would fit a run-of-the-mill thriller, it's a serious and morally complex drama that raises provocative questions about how difficult it can be to sustain a sense of personal responsibility in a society destabilized by political upheaval.

The plot centers on a teenage girl whose brother has been killed in a revolutionary uprising. Playing on her tumultuous emotions, the insurgents call on her to follow in his footsteps by carrying out an assassination that will almost certainly result in her death. She agrees to this mission, but then discovers that she is pregnant and will be sacrificing the life of her unborn child along with her own.

On one level, "The Terrorist" is a psychological drama examining an agonized choice between personal and political obligations.

On another, it's a parable about the dark power of violence itself, always destructive yet forever claiming to be justified for the sake of some larger cause.

The movie emphasizes its timeless philosophical concerns by painting its characters as generic revolutionaries rather than members of any particular movement. Capably directed by Indian filmmaker Santosh Sivan, it's a troubling but worthwhile picture.

The Quarry is an international movie if ever there were one, directed in South Africa by Belgian director Marion Hnsel and starring John Lynch, a talented Irish actor. He plays a drifter who meets a clergyman on a little-traveled highway, kills the minister for no reason, then assumes his identity and takes over his new job as pastor in a rural community.

A flawed movie that doesn't always make narrative sense, "The Quarry" raises questions about the nature of identity and the temptations of violence without saying anything substantial. Its willingness to grapple with ethical issues is impressive, though, and Hnsel is good at building ominous moods that may linger in the mind long after the characters have faded from the screen.

*The films are not rated; both contain violence and other adult material.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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