There is a superlative scene in Theo Angelopoulos’s 1988 film Landscape In The Mist (Τοπίο στην ομίχλη or Topio Stin Omichli) that is amongst the best filmic depictions of sexual abuse ever shown, and should be shown as a primer to Hollywood directors on how to be subtle and poetic, especially when dealing with such terminally PC topics.
In it, the young ten- or twelve-year-old heroine of the film, Voula (Tania Palaiologou), who is on the run, in search of her nonexistent father, has hitched a ride with a nameless truck driver (Vassilis Kolovos). Her never seen onscreen mother has told the children their father resides in Germany, even though she has no idea who their father/s is/are. Voula is on the run with her five- or six-year-old brother Alexandre (Michalis Zeke).
After the driver tries to dump the kids off at a truck stop diner, but they follow him, he pulls over on the side of a road, as the boy sleeps. He tells her to get out of the truck, and then grabs her into the body of the truck, which is covered with a sheet, or tarp. Manifestly, he wants to sexually abuse her in some way. The camera never pans away from the back of the truck. We hear nothing, and after a minute or two, the young boy pops out of the truck cab and goes in search of his sister, calling her name. He runs out of frame, and a minute or two later the trucker gets out of the back of the truck.
Now, the camera zooms in, slowly, to the truck, so that nothing but its back exists in the frame. Then, we see Voula slowly emerge from under the tarp. Her legs, then body. She looks shell-shocked, and her hands are bloodied. Whether this is from her hymen being broken, and feeling herself, or from an injury given to her by the trucker, or scratching him, we are not sure. The blood is not substantial, although likely too much for a broken hymen. Whether she was raped or merely fondled, we watch her face as she smears the blood on the side of the truck. This says far more than any graphic shot of the violence could, especially if quick cut in an MTV style. It also allows us to zoom in and feel her numbness and wonder at the blood.
Yet, this is merely one of many bravura shots in this great, great film, which opens with a shot at a train station, then hits the credits. Angelopoulos is a master of the picaresque, stringing together a brilliantly unobtrusive yet powerful narrative through a series of realistic, yet utterly poetic, moments.