Thursday, 18 October 2012

The Travelling Players (O Thiassos) [1975]

The Travelling Players (the second chapter in his 'Trilogy of History') might well have been the magnum opus of the legendary Greek filmmaker Theo Angelopoulos. Running at nearly 4 hours, this was a sprawling, complex, and a decidedly Leftist chronicling of the volatile political history of the country from 1939 to 1952 (through dictatorship, militia-rule, fascism, guerilla communism, civil war and colonialism), and was a bravura exercise in both form and content by making use of nearly every possible techno-philosophical dimension that the medium can offer. At the forefront of the ensemble storyline is a theatre troupe which travels along the Greek countryside performing a popular tale from the Greek folklore, which provided for a powerful allegory both to the crisscrossing lives of the performers, and in turn layered commentaries on the turbulent political backdrop. The plot regularly and seamlessly jumped forward and back in time in order to portray the cyclical nature of life and history, with Brechtian devices like directly addressing the audience, at key moments in the circular narrative, used to join the threads. Despite the deeply disconcerting content, the filmmaking style that Theo resorted to was one of poetic realism, and filled the proceedings and the character dynamics with subtle observations and a strong sense of melancholia – both at national and personal levels. It was also fascinating from purely audio-visual perspectives – audacious scene constructions (with a gently roving camera capturing multiple characters spatially as well as temporally, through breathtaking single takes), haunting photography, and a host of beautiful folk-based compositions, accentuated the deeply elegiac tone of this brilliantly enacted, leisurely paced and richly rewarding masterpiece.

Director: Theo Angelopoulos
Genre: Drama/Political Drama/Historical Drama/Epic/Ensemble Film
Language: Greek
Country: Greece

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