Landscape in the Mist (Topio stin omichli)

Landscape in the Mist

“Are you scared?” “No, I’m not scared.”

Theo Angelopoulos, who has probably the most articulate and bouncy name of a film director since Michelangelo Antonioni, previously directed O Thiassos, which I liked in small doses, but found the film toeing the line of insufferable as it went on its four hour running time. I mentioned back then in the comments section that I’d probably like this, Angelopoulos’ other list film, a little better, simply because it’s half the length. Turns out I was right on the money. Landscape in the Mist contains a lot of what made O Thiassos work as well as it did, without the caveat of being four hours in length. That alone made this a much more watchable film by my standards, though Angelopoulos does end up falling into a few of the same pitfalls that seem to lurk around his particular style.

The plot is only barely one, following two kids, the young teen Voula and little boy Alexandros, as they attempt to hitchhike and stowaway their way to Germany, where they believe their father is living. Along the way, they meet several people, both good and bad, including Orestes, a member of a troupe of traveling thespians (in a not-so-sudden nod to O Thiassos; one scene on a beach even has them attempt once again to stage Golfo the Shepherdess only to be foiled once more). Angelopoulos has grown a bit since O Thiassos, if only by a bit. He still very much enjoys long takes and a moving camera, not to mention a plot that’s slow to develop, but at least this time the resulting film is of a mainly acceptable length, so I was given just the right amount of time to enjoy the cinematography and direction instead of way too much of it. Unfortunately, aside from the cinematography and direction, there wasn’t much to this one, ironically because it didn’t have enough material packed into it like O Thiassos did. Still, it was a lot less heavy as a result, which made the two-hour runtime pretty much fly by, though it will likely result in feeling like you haven’t seen very much by the end of it.

This film is a great example, at least for me, of how the perception of a film going into it can make the biggest impression on your enjoyment of the film. I chose to read the Book’s passage on this film before it started, and it included a section on how the opening shot so perfectly captures the sensibilities of the film. Thus, when I started it, I paid attention to the opening shot. And I got it. It was with the assistance of a perspective outside my own that really made me appreciate this film more than I would have without it, even with the admitted lack of anything significant really happening. I still liked the film far more than O Thiassos, again mostly because it didn’t suck out as much of my life as that one did, and there were definitely some interesting and visually appealing shots scattered throughout. It had all of Angelopoulos’ pros, with very few cons, and it didn’t include the one big one that his prior film had. That’s a win in my book.

Arbitrary Rating: 8/10

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