LANDSCAPE IN THE MIST
ART FILM OF THE WEEK
Winning the Venice Film Festival’s Silver Lion in 1988, Greek director Theo Angelopoulos set his poetic lamentation on the road to nowhere for two young siblings who search for their non-existent father.
14-year-old sister Voula (Tania Palaiologou) and her five-year-old brother Alexander (Michalis Zeke) endure the odyssey before them, daring to believe in their obsession, even when encountering tragic moments along the way. Voula is brutally raped by a truck-driver and is still undeterred to travel to Germany where her imaginary father is meant to be residing. Without sentiment, the film delves into surreal occurrences such as people frozen in place watching the snow, a giant statue hand fished out of the sea, and a dying horse dragged by a tractor.
Scenic visions never cease to amaze during the extrapolated, elongated gaze of Angelopoulos’ lingering camera that treats the smallest detail of minutiae as an everlasting imprint on the retina of the spectator. Painterly cinematography is of the essence in depicting the lost travelers. Perfectly executed self-reflexivity is evidenced by a small piece of film found in the garbage, which later happens to be a piece of the film in which the brother and sister find themselves.
Angelopoulos’ existential extravaganza frames deep long takes over the tableaux of images, positioning the children in great crisis without the help of an adventurer they meet along the path of the road movie. Voula and Alexander find friendship with a down-on-his-luck, out-of-work actor, Orestes (Stratos Tzortzoglou). Voula discovers her own love for the actor, after he teaches her how to slow dance. Her heart is broken by his kind rejection of her determined love. The children never find their father, yet they do find poetry everywhere, even in the harshest, most blinding elements. Their hopeless journey provides a yearning sensation of loss never to be recovered.
Director Angelopoulos masters the long-take aesthetic (influenced here by directors Antonioni and Tarkovsky) and adds graceful fluidity to each subtle camera movement. Filmed as a fading dream (especially the train ride voice-overs of undelivered letters to the children’s father), the gentleness of the children in contrast with the harshness of modernity, is a parable of an allegorical nature.
The score of the film by Eleni Karaindrou matches the complexity of the imagery in range and tone. Similar musical cues linger over the symbolism of mythologized Greek locales with animated, overlapping backgrounds competing with the claustrophobic train-rides. Angelopoulos pulls it off by distancing the characters’ thoughts and emotions. By capturing Voula’s violent rape offscreen, the director maintains respect for his protagonist, while sending the horror of the moment home. Without shock or phoniness, the reserved and elaborate adventures of a sister and brother prove to be a whirlwind of magical verse for the ages.