Film Review: Mists

Unusual film documents time passing by in the lives of an elderly woman and a former political prisoner.

Mists tells the story of a people as much as a place in a nonlinear fashion that demands patience but is worth viewer effort. Ricardo Costa’s feature will remind some of the work of the great French New Wave documentarians, though it is less visually intriguing. Still, the concept works well enough.

Like the more artistic concurrent release, I Travel Because I Have To, I Come Back Because I Love You, Mists seems at first to be a travelogue of a region (in this case, Peniche, Portugal), but then moves in another, less expected direction. Director-producer-cinematographer-editor Ricardo Costa integrates reportage of his hometown village on the sea, shot in 2001, with Proustian narratives about his former nanny and parents’ housekeeper, Maria José (now a great-grandmother), and a local figure, Dias Lourenco, a one-time prisoner during the Salazar regime of the 1970s. History and reality meet during the filming as 9/11 shatters the currently peaceful existence of an area once marked by its own tragedy following the Carnation Revolution of 1974.

Costa’s dialectical editing of the footage is what makes Mists a unique experience. Unlike the aforementioned I Travel Because I Have to, little of his shooting captures Peniche (aka “The Window of the Sea”) in an especially appealing or interesting way. Part of this is the result of Costa’s no-nonsense cinéma-vérité style but also the digital video process used.

In any case, Mists is more concerned with the impact of past events on the present and how memory and storytelling could hold the key to ending a cycle of violence and suffering. By cutting from one character and story to another and invoking the past without the aid of archival materials, Costa creates more of a cinematic essay than a documentary per se, and that makes Mists a wise and thoughtful work. What it lacks in “art,” it makes up for in ideas and insight. Hopefully, audiences will appreciate that.