Sunday, November 19, 2006

Landscape in the Mist (Topio Stin Omilichi) ****

When I first saw this film it was a random pick out of the library that looked interesting. I had not ever heard of it or read a single review. When I saw it I was convinced that it was one of the best and most beautiful films I had ever seen. Later, when I checked too see other reviews, they were all nasty and gave the film a very painful treatment. Worried, I went to see it again - had I overpraised it? Had I missed some flaws? No, I was right, and I'm sure the people who disagreed were wrong now. The film is still one of the best films ever made. It has been said to be a blend of Fellini and Traffaut - that is a fairly good description on the grounds that it is about kids (Traffaut) and has some fairly Fellini-esquire moments (noticeably, one scene where the children escape a police station because everyone in the station and on the street are frozen in time watching the snow fall). But it wouldn't be fair to neglect Theo Angeloupos (probably spelling error, sorry) own incredible style, one that still seems fresh after many years because of the films obscurity it has been scarcely imitated. The gorgeous photography (by Yorgos Arvanitis) strays almost completely from close ups - in fact, there may not be a single close up in the entire film.

The story centers on two children who run away from their single mother in search of a father her mother says lives in Germany. In reality, we hear her mother say in the beginning of the film, he does not exist. The older adolescent girl overhears this but refuses to believe it, and she takes her much smaller brother on a road trip to the north Greek border. Over one winter they wander through snowy landscapes starkly contrasted against the industrial cities and highways. They almost starve several times, they are occasionally pursued by police, at one point it is implied that the adolescent girl, Voula, is raped. At many times during their journey they encounter a friendly traveling theater actor who gives them rides. The whole film the children are searching for their father, the "Landscape in the Mist" - it can only exist if you imagine it. Sadly, Alexander and Voula do not accept the actor as a father figure, because their determined journey says their father is in Germany, not Greece. If only they had!...unfortunately, it would not have made a difference - the actor has been drafted into the Greek army.

Towards the end of the film they watch with amazement as a helicopter pulls a giant statue of a god-like hand out of large river and flies it towards the faraway city - I wouldn't be given this scene so shamelessly away if it weren't for the fact they show it in the poster anyway...the spoiler warning is also up. But it's really there for:

At the end of the film the Alexander (the boy) and Voula attempt to cross the Greek border by rowing a boat across the river. They are spotted from a watchtower and fired upon. The next morning, it seems they have crossed the river and are wandering through a hilly place where it is so misty they can hardly see ten yards ahead of them. A lone, leafless tree becomes visible and they wander towards it. The camera does not follow them. Fade to black. Have they successfully crossed the border? Have they been shot and died, and reached some kind of afterlife? It's not clear, but we celebrate their victory that they have finally discovered the impossible: a landscape in the mist.

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