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‘Landscape in the Mist’ (NR)

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
February 01, 1991

Theo Angelopoulos's "Landscape in the Mist" is a beautifully filmed odyssey about two children's search for their father. One scene epitomizes the kind of visual flavor, the roving-eye pleasure that abundantly fills this 1988 Greek film:

On a trek from Greece to Germany, in search of their unknown father, 14-year-old Voula (Tania Palaiologou) and her 5-year-old brother Alexander (Michalis Zeke) find themselves on an unfamiliar street corner. Snow has been falling. Celebratory music -- accordion and voices -- can be heard from a restaurant. The children watch as a bride in white runs sobbing from the party.

A man (presumably her husband) comes out, comforts her and brings her back. At the same time, a tractor drags a tethered, dying horse through the snow and dumps it practically at the children's feet. The music comes up again. The younger boy begins to cry at the horse. "He's dying," says his sister. The boy continues to cry as the wedding revelers now spill on to the snowy street in a jubilant procession . . .

This scene, executed with brilliant choreography in one shot, gives a palpable sense of overlapping life. Angelopoulos, who won Venice's Silver Lion Award for "Mist," paints and choreographs human tableaux in this way throughout the movie. His rich, canvassy point of view lifts the story to allegorical heights.

It's revealed early on in the story that Voula and Alexander are on a fruitless search. Their mother (who they have escaped from) has merely invented the German story for quick convenience. But the children continue on, without tickets, passports or money, giving the slip to a train guard, then hitching rides with a friendly, out-of-work actor (Stratos Tzortzoglou), a lecherous truck-driver and concluding the journey on an unattended boat.

Angelopoulos observes this youthful epic with seasoned restraint. Rather than showing the plight of these children through a sentimental lens, he establishes Voula and Alexander in terms of the adult world they must traverse.

That restraint comes to bear in a scene which, in terms of consumer warning, must be mentioned. The truckdriver, after giving the vulnerable children a ride, exacts a brutal price from Voula. It's a credit to Angelopoulos, however, that he manages to clothe this horrifying event in subtlety. By the time the children have reached their misty destination, that scene, while it still remains a scarring memory, is also accompanied by a gentler, artistic aftertaste.

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