Landscape in the Mist (Review)

Landscapes in the Mist
(7 out of 10)
Dir. Theo Angelopoulos
127 min

Should You See the Film?
Entertainment Weekly put this film at #14 of the all-time foreign film list. That was one of the reasons I wanted to see this film. (The description of the film was the other.) If you’re the type of person that enjoys going to museums and staring at photographs, then I would recommend this film to you. That doesn’t mean the film is without an accessible story line. Recommended mainly to people who appreciate art films and films that move at a deliberate pace.

The story involves a Greek brother and sister searching for their father in Germany. On their journey, they meet various characters and situations. Along the way, Angelopoulos showcases various scenes as if they were moving photographs. (I go into these scenes later in the review.) This story serves as the backbone that holds these other scenes together.

If you enjoy films that showcase scenes of visual poetry and you don’t mind a bleak view on life or questions of human existence, then I would recommend seeing Landscapes in the Mist.

Personal Comments

The film seems to be about two kinds of journeys: a journey to find God and the journey of children. The film made me think of Waiting for Godot film, but instead of waiting, the characters are “searhing for Godot
trying to find God, the father and protector. What makes me think they’re searching for God?

  1. The tells the creation story about the way light divides the darkness when the boy is afraid. The boy also complains about the story never being finished because the mother tells them to go to sleep. The camera focuses on the light from the under the door, and when the door opens, the light cuts the darkness and spills onto the kids.
  2. The children are searching for a father that doesn’t exist. The refuses to believe her uncle after she overhears him saying the mother made up the story about the father living in Germany to protect the children (in fact, the mother doesn’t know the identity of the real father). This insistence to believe gives the children’s quest a religious flavor.
  3. The scenes of the talking to her father in a voice over amount to prayers. The talks about her life and about her brother and expresses a longing to be with him.
  4. Orestes finds the torn negative filmstrip in the rubble and asks if they can see the tree amidst the mist. He later reveals that he was playing a little joke, as there is no tree in the film. The boy keeps the strip and in a later scene we see him staring intently at the strip.
  5. The military helicopter removing the giant sculpted hand reminded me of the hand of God in the Sistine Chapel. I thought the hand referred to God, too because of the opening scene of helicopter carrying the sculpture of Jesus in La Dolce Vita. The fingers point at Orestes as it slowly turns in the air, and then we see the hand slowly recede into the distance. Orestes says something like, “Even if I were to shout would the army of angels here me.” He puts his face in his hand and the little boy touches him for consolation.
  6. The final scene of the film as the tree almost magically appears out of the fog signifying the children have found heaven or maybe that their faith has been confirmed. The run to the tree and hug it, as if they have finally found their father.

The other strand I saw in the film involves the difficulties of childhood, particularly for s. First of all, the children are searching for a father that has left them. The mother doesn’t even know who the real father is and she has made up this story about how he lives in Germany. The children believe the story and seek out the father, which leads them to all kinds of misfortune and perhaps their eventual .

Second, they are constantly betrayed in one way or another by s. The truck s the ; the man the falls for turns out to be gay; the train conductors kick them out of the train; the police carelessly let the kids escape when it snows (although it may not have been the police’s fault). Furthermore, even though the main characters are children, they will not get any help from the s if they do not have money. The boy is hungry, but he must work for the food; they do not have a train ticket so they are kicked off the train and turned over to the police; the must herself for another ticket. (the soldier does gives the her the money without having with her).

Angelopoulos also seems to have harsh comments about the way Greek society treats women. Early in the film the children come upon a wedding. They see the bride quickly coming out of a building with what looks like the groom chasing after her. They talk and they go back into the building. Then, we see a tractor appear from the left of the screen dragging a white horse by the tied up legs. The horse stops in the middle of the screen lying on its side whinnying. The children run up to the horse. The boy is weeping and then the horse dies. We then see the wedding party exit the building with some people forming a circle dancing. The horse symbolizes the bride. The bride runs away from the wedding and seems to have to be convinced to return. The white horse is being dragged by a tractor. When the horse dies, the wedding ceremony is completed which signifies the of a woman at marriage. I don’t know the quality of life for Greek married woman, but this is the way I interpreted the scene.

The scene of the getting d in the truck is also another scene that seems to condemn the way woman are treated. Angelopoulos creates effective visuals to make the scene disturbing. The way Angelopoulos confirms the audience’s worst suspicions is also very effective. The boy is calling for the sister and runs past the back of the truck. The truck is not shaking and there are no sounds coming from it. After a while, we see the man pull the canvas back a bit and go to the front of the truck. Under the space between the canvas and the flatbed, we see what looks like the legs of the moving. Her legs slowly move out under the canvas until we know it’s the . Her legs dangle over the edge while the canvas covers the rest of her body. Focusing on the dangling legs creates both a childlike quality and, at the same time, suspicion of . The slowly pulls back the canvas with one hand while her other hand is between her legs. A hand reaches up and we see on it, which the hand slowly wipes on the wall of the truck. Once the man leaves the back, the audience is fairly certain what took place, but Angelopoulos effectively chooses to confirm this bit by bit until the shocking close-up of the ied fingers. All the while the is quiet with a calm (or at least not hysterical) expression on her face.

There are other scenes in the film that involve women, and none of them are very positive. Later in the film, the becomes attracted to (or falls in love with Orestes), but her discovery that he is gay devastates her. The mother of the children is never shown, and the biological father has abandoned her and the kids; the bride doesn’t seem to want to get married or there are indications of problems; the waitress is fought over and protected like property.

Both strands of the story end in a way that has both hopeful and depressing connotations.
It seems a border guard shoots and kills the two children. They enter into “heaven” and finally see the tree/father/God that they were looking for. This would make the rest of the film rather bleak and nihilistic. Life is suffering; suffering for children; the journey from childhood to womanhood is one filled with pain. On the other hand, the ending may be somewhat hopeful; in the end the children do find the tree, which represents the thing that doesn’t exist, but that people look for: God. It represents the father that they longed for. In the end, the children find this, albeit after dying.

Angelopoulos shoots this scene with lots of artistic flair. Prior to the last scene the screen is pitch black. We hear a man shout, and then we hear one gunshot. The screen dissolves into a white fog. Slowly, we see image of the boy moving out of the boat. We hear the voices of the children. The boy is now the comforter and tells the sister the creation story. As he tells the story, the fog slowly dissipates and we see tree emerge. The whole process is visually impressive, but it also draws seems a bit heavy-handed and conspicuous. It’s the kind of move where the filmmaker draws attention to himself to show how clever he is.

Many of the other scenes have this kind of quality in the film, and while these scenes are visually impressive, I feel a little unsatisfied by them (perhaps for the reasons I mentioned above).

  1. No Comments

You can add images to your comment by clicking here.