Landscape in the Mist is a desperate plea for credibility. It wants very badly to be admitted into the company of the austere masters of the cinema- people like Antonioni, Tarkovsky, and Bresson - but it only succeeds in reminding us of how much better those directors are. Instead of a precise symbolic system or compositional intelligence, the film feels like an amalgam of styles lifted from those that the director admires, plopped down in the middle of a willfully opaque script that defies all attempts at answering the basic questions that an audience might have. In short, the film is threadbare, an attempt at enigmatic art that fails to keep its flimsy imagery from crumbling in our hands.
And yet, I was never less than gripped by it. There is an irresistible camp solemnity to this film, made all the more ridiculous by being populated by various iron-on symbols and ruled by a stoic pair of children whose purity reaches ludicrous heights. Taken as a statement by its director, Theo Angelopoulos, it fails fairly spectacularly- but in showing dogged faith in the force of his vision, which at times borders on a delusion of grandeur, he manages to make a prefab fable worthy of Maria Montez and make it glow- one's interest never flags, knowing that the suffering of the little children will only get worse as the film goes on and reveling in the excessiveness of the false minimalism that envelops the film in a luxurious fog.
At any rate, the film is first and foremost the story of two children on an odyssey. Voula, who is about e
stin Omichli'' (Landscape in the Mist, 1988) is in many ways a consummation
of the themes and ideas that fueled Angelopoulos'
earlier films. The film is shot in beautifully choreographed long takes
with static shots and the characteristic 360-degree pans, and the images
that Angelopoulos captures simply embed themselves in one's mind.
The film tells the story of an 11-year-old girl and 5-year-old boy who decide
to run away from home to go stay with their father in Germany. Early on,
it is revealed that there really is no father, and that their quest is
hopeless. But, far from a cruel depiction of unnecessary alienation, the
voyage of the young kids is transformed into a chronicle of youths being
introduced into the adult world.
However, the film is very different from the numerous coming-of-age films that
appeared in this country. For one thing, the two kids aren't just presented
as two naive children whose innocence is dramatically shattered. More importantly, events happen to the kids and around them, and the viewer
responds to the events as well as the children themselves. Consequently,
some interpret this story as an allegory for the emergence of Greece and Greek society out of the dark years of the military junta.
But apart from these thematic concerns, the film is pure pleasure visually.
Several of the images haunt the mind long after the film is over. The
ending of the film, while not terribly realistic, is still perhaps most