Landscape in the Mist, 1988

“In the beginning was the darkness. And then there was light…” Every evening, Voula (Tania Palaiologou) begins to tell her younger brother, Alexander (Michalis Zeke), the same bedtime tale – the story of creation – and is invariably interrupted by the approach of their distant mother as she momentary peers through the door to ensure that they have fallen asleep. It is an appropriate preface for the children’s own unresolved story of their origin, as they attempt to unravel the mystery of their father’s identity. Each day, they walk to the train station and attempt to stow away on a German-bound train to reunite with their unknown father who, their mother explains, lives in Germany. The children compose letters to their absent father in their thoughts, and await his response in their dreams. Alexander believes that their long-awaited reunion is near, and one day, the children succeed in boarding the train. However, they are soon discovered by the train conductor and turned over to the police. Fearing their premature return, Voula explains that they are visiting their uncle (Dimitris Kaberidis), and the police escort the children in order to see him. The uncle refuses to take custody of them, explaining that the children were born out of wedlock, and that their mother caused their flight by inventing the idea of the nonexistent father in Germany as a means of giving them false hope. Voula refuses to accept her uncle’s explanation and, when the opportunity presents itself, runs away with Alexander from the police station. While travelling on an empty stretch of road, they encounter a cheerful, young itinerant actor named Orestes (Stratos Tzortzoglou) whose family members, intriguingly, are the same world weary actors attempting to perform (albeit, still unsuccessfully) Golpho the Shepherdess in The Travelling Players. Orestes is leaving for the military, but has grown fond of the children, and has decided to spend his final hours helping them reach the border town of Thessaloniki. But as the children continue on their misguided and unattainable quest, can they find redemptive meaning beyond their fruitless journey?

Landscape in the Mist is a poignant, lyrical, and allegorical fable on the human struggle for identity and connection. By revisiting the itinerant acting family of The Travelling Players, Theo Angelopoulos expounds on the transient, yet cyclical process of life as the common, universal bridge of human experience: the image of a dying horse on the snow (reminiscent of Robert Bresson’s Au Hasard Balthazar) juxtaposed against a wedding celebration; Orestes’ departure from his family vocation to join the military, the odd image of a large statue hand rising from the sea that metaphorically connects the cultural legacy of ancient Greek civilization to contemporary Greece. Like the symbolic, disembodied sculptured hand, the children, too, are incomplete – severed from their heritage by being denied a relationship with their father. And like the struggling travelling players, the children have embarked on a endless journey from which there is no return. However, in their struggle to overcome the artificially created borders (a theme similarly explored by Andrei Tarkovsky) that separate them from their elusive German father, the children find their own path to closure and personal reconciliation. In the haunting, surreal final scene, the children embrace a surrogate connection to their ancestral history – a universal icon that binds all humanity towards a shared purpose of survival and continuity – an enduring symbol of nature and life.

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