Landscape in the Mist

Landscape in the Mist ★★★★★

After a very exhausting and demanding early filmography, the master of stillness and mythical symbolism Theodoros Angelopoulos forms part of the international cinematographic melodrama that directors such as Giuseppe Tornatore (Nuovo Cinema Paradiso [1988]) applied in their films. Perhaps that could be the main reason that Angelopoulos, once again, gained such a massive international attention since his WWII epic O Thiasos (1975). Despite this, Topio Stin Omichli easily belongs to his Top 5 films and has still a very present trademark of his own. Incorrectly considered as a road movie instead of a "road-to-nowhere movie", its metaphysical power and cinematic beauty have still the utter power of offering several symbols to be interpreted, a haunting and subjective ending sequence, and a very high dose of implied brutality that leads to an ultimate psychological perdition.

This criticism towards a more modern Greek society focuses on two children, Voula and his five-year-old brother Alexandros, who go on a seemingly hopeless and difficult odyssey while traveling to Germany in search of their father. In the way, they find a young man named Orestes who is captivated by their fortitude and accompanies them through several stages of their journey. Theodoros Angelopoulos won the Interfilm Award at the Berlin International Film Festival of 1989 under the category of Forum of New Cinema. The film also won the C.I.C.A.E. Award, the OCIC Award, the Pasinetti Award for Best Film, the Prize of the Students of the University "La Sapienza", the Sergio Trassatti Award and the Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival of 1988.

Angelopoulos' portrayal of the line that divides the illusions of childhood and the troubles of adolescence is a startling accomplishment and an essay on the human condition seen through the most vulnerable, corruptible and innocent eyes possible. The cinema of the 80's (mostly European) had a certain affinity with the depiction of children as innocent elements surrounded by a criminal and/or hostile environment. In the case of Angelopoulos, the biggest possibility of him resorting to such heartbreaking method must mean something beyond the aforementioned statements. Besides using children (who gave unbelievable performances) for telling a more-than-typical story about discovery and existential doom, he divides the film in compelling layers of thought-provoking complexity and inserts certain symbolisms that they cannot understand clearly... and perhaps neither we can.

Of course, the film may be unfairly criticized under modern standards. Comments expressing that the film did not care efficiently enough for the development of the main characters and did not allow the audience to easily build a cathartic empathy towards them because of a supposed lack of emotions and sentimentalism ultimately miss the point. The main purpose of the film remains clear: to represent and criticize a cruel and insecure society in which inoffensive and still harmless human beings can be found. In this case, the personal shame and lack of care and interest of the mother towards her sons is an implicitly explained element. We do not get to see her face. We do not get to see the face of the father, either. The title of the film speaks of a landscape in the mist, an unseen and unknown illusion covered by hardships and false hopes that even the children do not understand. However, it is that ignorance the one that strengthens their absence of a parental figure, so solitude is a key element that needs no exaggeration in its illustration.

Angelopoulos making several references to his past films, such as O Thiasos (1975) and O Megalexandros (1980) may imply nostalgic personal reasons. After all, Topio Stin Omichli is one of his most financially successful films, mostly because of distribution matters. The traveling players, including Orestes, are back, obviously not in a literal way. They are found in a crucial part of their lives after constant failures throughout Greece and performing loud soliloquies about their past lives during the Second World War and the times of the foreign occupation, not to mention their performance was about "Golfo, the young shepherdess". Only this time, the meaning of such play has not the same meaning it had in O Thiasos (1975). Alexander the Great is transported to its earliest age of innocence and awareness, or rather, Alexander's fatherless son is the protagonist of a tale that takes place in a modern Greece. He and Voula will travel through unbelievable moments of loneliness that may be depressing to some viewers, but Angelopoulos very characteristic style of visual beauty enlightens a vibrant power of emotions and the final image is also open to any interpretation. Moving masterpiece, it is.


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