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Vittorio De Sica
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A group of traveling players peregrinates through Greece attempting to perform the popular erotic drama Golfo The Shepherdess. In a first level the film focuses on the historical events between 1939 and 1952 as they are experienced by the traveling players and as they affect the villages which they visit: The last year of Metaxas' fascist dictatorship, the war against the Italians, the Nazi occupation, the liberation, the civil war between left and right wingers, the British and American interventionism in the Greek politics. In a second level the characters live their own drama of jealousy and betrayal, with its roots in the ancient myth of the House of Atreus. Agamemnon, a Greek refugee from Minor Asia, goes to war against the Italians in 1940, joins the resistance against the Germans, and is executed by them after being betrayed by Clytemnestra and Aegisthos. Aegisthos, Clytemnestra's lover, is an informer and collaborator working with the German occupiers. Orestes, son of ... Written by
A great but ponderous work; covers modern Greek history by retelling ancient Greek tragedy.
This is a landmark film, a must see for anyone that wishes to understand modern Greek history and politics. The plot is a loose retelling of the Oresteia cycle of tragedies by Aeschylus--the names of the characters (Orestes, Electra, Chrysothemis) are an obvious hint. Betrayal, revenge and redemption are only part of the story. It takes place in Greece between 1936 and 1952, years filled with fascist dictatorship, war, Axis occupation, civil war and repression. Greece's traumatic history is seen through the eyes of a traveling company of actors, who travel all around provincial towns to perform a single play: "Golfo", a pastoral tragedy told in folk-song-inspired rhyming couplets.
This is not a movie for action-loving, short-attention-span viewers. Angelopoulos and his long-time collaborator, renowned cinematographer Arvanitis, have developed a very distinctive style, and "O Thiassos" is an uncompromising example. There are no close-ups, very little panning, some slow tracking; shots are long (both in point of view and time); almost every shot is filmed in overcast conditions; actors are dwarfed by their surroundings, which are all unglamorous, even depressing in their wartime run-down look. One could say that the purpose is to accentuate the tragic, the sense that the characters are cogs in the machine of history; but ancient tragedy did the same in big style, opulent costumes, and terrifying masks. Angelopoulos' politics induces him to focus on ordinary people in ordinary surroundings instead. The result is strangely, hauntingly lyrical to many; a real downer for some.
The film came out in 1975, a year after the end of the dictatorial right-wing regime of the "colonels" (1967-74), and after decades of repression of communists and their sympathisers. Angelopoulos' point of view is sympathetic to the left/communist side. Under full democracy, it was finally allowed to be expressed. The film helped shape the political sensibilities of a whole generation of Greek baby boomers. Its sixteen-year trek (plod, some would say) through Greek history will probably bewilder non-Greek viewers, but it is a deeply affecting crash-course in what shaped contemporary Greece. It is also an impressive re-interpretation of tragedy, as original as any I have seen on film.
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