Mists: Memory and Meaning in Peniche, Portugal


A city symphony composed in a Mediterranean tempo, Mists is also a personal look at the way certain memories imprint over time. Director Ricardo Costa returns to his hometown of Peniche, Portugal, for a season of filming and focuses on his former nanny, Maria José, whom he hasn’t seen in 50 years. Costa turns from the meditative examination of old photos to a series of quotidian scenes so slow-moving, they could be tableaux. An ex-prisoner leads a tour of the fort that former Prime Minister Salazar turned into a political prison in the 1960s; locals attend to their fishing catch, the laundry, and their dinner. The repeated contrast between recorded history and the more sensory, personal kind is one of the film’s subtle pleasures. Costa appears occasionally, a motif in his own memory, wearing dark sunglasses while he holds a boom mic above the rustling waves or watches Maria José’s soccer-loving great-grandsons shift from shyness to swagger in a moment. There is little dialogue and no proper narrative; what Costa shows us about life in Peniche is elusive by definition and will be recognized intuitively by those who remember their own limitless yet securely circumscribed childhood afternoons.