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THE TRAVELLING PLAYERS

Greece, 1975 (MIFF 1976)

Director: Theo Angelopoulos

Running for four hours, The Travelling Players traces the history of Greece from 1936 to 1952. The film begins and ends during an election campaign in 1952. A small group of strolling players traverses the countryside, performing their play, 'Golfo the Shepherdess'. Everywhere they go, they set up their back-cloth, on which straggly sheep graze by a stream, and they attempt to carry through a performance of their nineteenth century pastorale. Sudden time-shifts within single sequences link past and present. One performance is interrupted by fascists in order to kidnap one of the actors; another time, two cast members are shot on stage.

The director, Theo Angelopolous, who previously made The Reconstruction and Days of 36, uses set-pieces, songs, monologues to camera, numerous outside location episodes, and long, formal camera movements to convey a complex perspective on history. The interpretation of twentieth century history is carried through the players' performance of their play in different settings, as well as through the rivalries and tensions within the small group, which lead to an enactment of the Electra-Orestes tragedy.

Within performances, the past breaks into the present. The Italian invasion of 1940 is suddenly announced from the stage; the actors meet a patrol of British troops; they are put in front of a firing squad; a fascist soldier attempts to rape one of the actresses. But the play goes on, and the film completes a long and searching presentation of the immediate past.

'Angelopolous has hit upon an infallibly effective format, and his ramshackle company is both a device and a focus. But even at its most flamboyant - and there are set pieces in which the horsemen ride like Jancso's - the film works through apprehension and darkness, the sense of a country stunned by historical process.'

Penelope Houston, Sight and Sound

'Angelopolous... must not be considered among the most important new directors in the world, a film-maker with the heroic stature and strength of a Visconti.'

Ken Wlaschin, Films and Filming

A masterpiece of modern cinema, a film reverberating with metaphor and meaning.

David Wilson, Sight and Sound

International Critics Award, Cannes 1975. Best Picture, Thessalonika 1975

See also...

ALEXANDER THE GREAT

Greece, 1980
Theo Angelopoulos' new film comes to us laden with international awards and honors. Its first screening at the 1980 Venice Festival threw almost the entire remaining offerings into sharp relief. Its … More »

JOURNEY TO CYTHERA

Greece/Italy/UK/West Germany, 1984
The latest film from the great maverick of Greek cinema is both an affirmation of his tremendous talent and a marked development in his career. Still passionately concerned with the socio-political h… More »

THE BEE KEEPER

Greece/France/Italy, 1986
The political themes that have dominated the films of Theo Angelopoulos thus far are shunted aside in The Bee Keeper, a haunting, demanding impressive picture about the last days in the life of a bro… More »

THE HUNTERS

Greece, 1977
The new film by Angelopoulos is not so much a sequel to The Travelling Players, as a similar formal dramatization of the years 1949 to 1976 in Greece. ... On New Year's Eve, 1976, a hunting party in … More »

RECONSTRUCTION

Greece, 1970
Angelopoulos' first feature, shot in just 27 days in the tiny village of Thalia with a crew of five and a budget of just over US$10,000. Though lacking the pictorial elegance of his sub­sequent w… More »

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