Do not come here looking for anything objective or definite, it is a landscape in the mist, something that needs to be felt more than seen. Theo Angelopoulos tour de force is an immersive melancholic piece of Greek cinema that leaves you soaked in its surreal imagery.
The movie opens with two siblings Voula ( Tania Palaiologou) and Alexandros (Michalis Zeke) boarding a train form Athens station without tickets. The plot is unraveled through a letter the Voula writes to her father in her mind on the train.
“ Dear Father,
We have decided to come and find you. We have never seen you, we miss you. We do not know what you look like but we miss you. We do not want to be a burden for you, just want to get to know you and then we will go away again. If you send us a reply, do it with the sound of the train, tatan_tatan_tatan_tatan.”
We immediately understand that the children are searching for love and attention even if it is for the briefest of intervals. We later come to know that their mother is probably a hooker and does not know who the father is and had lied to the kids that he is far away in Germany. A landscape in the mist.
On their way they meet Orestis (Stratos Tzortzoglou) who is a factory worker, a theatre artist and wants to join the army. He is handsome, energetic, talented and loving. He finds the kids determined and decides to help them in their cause. The movie revolves entirely on these characters who have crossed each others path for a brief moment, before they move to their own destinations. They mediate the alienating terrifying world by riding fast on motorcycles, by visiting artists rehearsing their play on a beach and moreover by imparting each other with warmth, vigour and love.
But this is not a usual, feel good, coming of age road movie. It is at times terrorizing, as unutterable horrific things happen to the kids. At times mystifying, as Angelopoulos fills it with surreal imagery of huge floating marble hands, of a stand alone spiral stairway at the edge of the beach, of an entire town frozen into a tableau with heavy snowfall painting it white. At times intimate, when the sister hugs her brother, when the kids talk to their unknown father through letters which are sent nowhere.
Somewhere along the road Voula falls for Orestis, who is a decade older than her, and maybe Orestis likes her too. It is like all those relationships we have had in life which we knew would lead us nowhere, but still we loved hopelessly. We know it is going to end sooner or later and we keep romanticizing it’s end, as if it’s demise would somehow complete us. Voula would soon find out that Orestis made love to another man and he is incapable of loving her. Heart broken she would leave with her brother, without even saying good bye to Orestis.
At this point, i think the movie delivers its best moment. Orestis would follow Voula understanding that he had broken her heart. He chases her on a bike shouting “ I would not like us to part like this, I would not like us to part like this”. The significance of parting in inconsequential loves, a dignified parting, a touch or a hug that would heal us and keep us sane, to bear the boredom and estrangement of our impeding life ahead.
There is an entire two minutes dedicated to Voula’s tears in Orestis arms as he mends her heart “ Little loner, that’s the way it is for the first time, your heart beats, so you think it will break, your feet tremble,you want to die”. The scene evokes memories of the parting scene in Call Me by You Name (2017).
Essentially the movie reflects on the transient nature of our lives, the way we walk into and out of cities, of people, of subways,of jobs and of emotions, before we ourselves fade away and become nothing.