Landscape in the Mist (Theodoros Angelopoulos, 1988)

by Smart

Explaining what it is I love about a favourite film is always difficult. It is like trying to explain to a partner just how and why you love them, knowing full-well that your words will never be good enough to overcome their paranoia and self-consciousness. Emotion is at a level above analytical intelligence. It evades the confining structure of words and reasoning, and yet I am sure it is only through emotion that I understand certain films. The best I can hope to accomplish in writing is to reduce my feelings down to manageable and expressible morsels of information. It is then left up to you, the reader, to connect with my words and find your own pathway to the emotion. This leaves me in the dark, not knowing if the emotion you find, if you are lucky enough to find any emotion at all, is similar to my own. It may be better suited to see this commentary as a guide to a metaphysical destination that can only be reached alone. In some films there are moments which feel as if they could go on forever without losing their impact. These moments tap into a truth and sincerity that can only be captured within fantastic works of fiction. They are fleeting, dream-like images, incarcerated on celluloid to be watched and re-watched for infinity. Landscape in the Mist is a film that is driven by such moments, and this is, to the best of my analytical understanding, why I love it.

I certainly do not wish to spoil or taint these transcendental cinematic moments by laying them out, reduced and without context. That would only tarnish my memory of their enchantment. Instead, all I can do is trust that you believe me when I say that the journey offered by Angelopoulos’ film is one that has to be experienced with an open mind and an open heart. The film itself combines multiple journeys, the most central to the narrative being the physical journey the two children take in search of their father. This leads them quite naturally on a number of smaller journeys, as well as beginning a few that will last forever. These journeys do not lead to anywhere concrete or final, and each is just as important and impactful as the last. I am thankful for this, as it gives each willing viewer the power to shape their own conclusion. Personally, I have chosen to leave a fog of ambiguity as my final resting place on the matter, as that is where I am most comfortable reflecting on the prior events of angelic fantasy and overwhelming tragedy. There is a complex intertwining of mood at play in Landscape in the Mist, as bleak and devastating situations are blessed with beautiful, poetic mise-en-scène and score. This makes the relationship between form and content all the more complex and fulfilling. It is a broad, powerful journey, filled with enlightening detours, dazzling highs, and unbearable lows. I implore you all to experience it for yourself.