Jules Dassin's film has been hailed as one of the finest to come out of France in recent years, It is adapted from a novel by Karantzaki, "Christ Recrucified", and is described by Lindsay Anderson as "a work of great courage and outstanding interest. The story of religious and social conflict in a Greek village dominated by Turkish militia and a reactionary orthodox priest."
Lycovrissi, a Greek village in Turkey-in-Asia, is governed by a Turkish Agha but his spiritual as well as temporal administration is carried out by the Elders: Pope Grigoris the priest; Lord Patriareheas; Ladas, the wealthy money lender and Hadji Nikoiis, the teacher. Life is calm and peaceful.
On this day the Elders are going to choose from among the villagers those who shall enact the Mystery of the Passion of Jesus Christ, for the next year's Holy Week.
Although Manolios, the shepherd; Yannakos, the pedlar; Kostandis, the coffee shop owner, and Michelis, the son of Lord Patriareheas, humbly accept their roles as Christ and the Apostles Peter, James and John, Panayotaros, the harness-maker is resentful at being Judas, and Katerina, the widow, known for her easy ways, is Lit first satirical about being Mary Magdalen.
However, on the same day, an event disturbs the calm in Lycovrissi, and changes the course of the lives of Manolios, the future Christ, and his companions &ndash: they suddenly see an army of starving refugees from Turkish oppression coming towards the village. When diese ask die Elders for permission to settle in Lycovrissi, the Elders refuse and the refugees arc left to camp on the arid hill Sarakina.
Moved by a deep feeling of justice and pity Monolios and the Apostles and Katerina, bring the refugees the warmth of their presence. But they will soon realize that the Elders who represent the established order of things will not accept the refugees and that to be worthy of their roles they will have to stand in the face of wealth and power.
That is how they will play their parts. Not on (lie threshold of a church, but in a daily struggle with the Elders, who finally set the whole village against the refugees, the three companions and the modern "Christ". "Few films hax'e challenged hypocrisy with such savagery. It strikes at the authority of the church and is a terrible indictment of mass indoctrination." (Peter Baker.)