A Trip Across Misty Meadows

Kelionė ūkų lankomis | A Trip Across Misty Meadows

Henrikas Šablevičius

Lithuania, 1973

Henrikas Šablevičius (1930-2004) was one of the pioneers of the Lithuanian Documentary Cinema movement. This movement was an exceptional phenomenon in the history of Soviet Lithuanian cinema at that time. Neglecting the usual USSR requirements for documentaries (which had to be ideological-advertising stories showing a happy life in the USSR), directors Henrikas Šablevičius, Robertas Verba, Almantas Grikevičius and others began making films commonly referred to as “poetic documentaries”. These films capture portraits of ordinary people living in Lithuania and their authentic experiences. Sometimes the protagonists were not even people, but abstract phenomena, cities, events. The genre of these films was often on the edge between documentary and feature film: it was not an ordinary documentation of events, but rather metaphorical stories, for whose fulfilment the directors leaned on the possibilities of sound, editing and visual associations. It was also a great challenge for the Soviet censorship, which tried in every possible way to bring such films “closer to the ground”.

Henrikas Šablevičius was a non-conformist, stubborn and somewhat eccentric director. One of the distinctive features of his documentaries are the extraordinary, peculiar people of Lithuania who did not meet the standards of a “Soviet man” (e.g. a sage, a kind-hearted gentleman, a fat policeman, etc.), and … a light-hearted sense of humour - not being afraid to laugh both at himself and at others. A Trip Across Misty Meadows is a bit different though. The film reveals a nostalgic longing of the old, free, unoccupied Lithuania and the traditions based on its rural values (everyone here is close, familiar, a neighbour, there is no alienation).

Despite the directors’ ingenuity in circumventing Soviet censorship, it was not an easy task even in the field of documentary cinema. Nothing depended on the director’s vision alone: the idea of the film, the script (which was also needed for documentaries), all the takes had to be approved by the editors and administration of the Lithuanian Film Studio. And the latter sometimes not only obeyed ideological requirements, but also imposed their personal beliefs. As evidenced by the surviving documents of the film’s creation, A Trip Across Misty Meadows was supposed to look a little different at first, too. For instance, accusations of the film being too “abstract” (“A film must be about people, not trains!”) gave rise to its main character, Povilas, the supervisor of a siaurukas (narrow-gauge railway), whose story is the one we hear being told by an invisible narrator. Seeking to get the theme of the film approved, the application also emphasized the ideological opposition between progress (USSR) and regression (old Lithuania and the siaurukas): after all, the exaltation of the USSR had to be the leitmotif of all films at that time. Ironically, the final result we see in the film was the opposite ...


This film continues the tradition of Lithuanian poetic documentary. It details the dismantling of Lithuania’s old railway “Siaurukas” and the construction of its new modern replacement. The old railway and its modern counterpart become the symbol of the clash between the archaic rural Lithuania and Soviet industrialization. The film was often considered as an expression of the archetypes of Lithuanian character. 

10min / Format 3:1

Inside Cinema Credits

Research, selection and texts by Lina Kaminskaitė-Jančorienė, Elena Jasiūnaitė, Gintė Žulytė

Archives: Lithuanian Central State Archives, Lithuanian Theater, Music and Film Museum, Meno Avilys, Lithuanian Film Centre

Film rights: Lithuanian Film Centre and Meno Avilys.

A Trip Across Misty Meadows: Creation process