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
"The Travelling Players", one of the early films of Theo Angelopoulos, shows the vast difference between the talented rising director of 1975 that had something to say, and of the bourgeois famous director of 1998 ("Eternity And A Day") that won the Cannes award but had nothing left to say.
A sprawling epic running at around 4 hours, the film follows a group of touring actors performing a theatrical play across Greece between 1939 and 1952. The focus is on the troubled modern history of Greece during the period (a fascist dictatorship, resistance against the Italians, German occupation, civil war), seen through a series of warped desolate sequences drenched in languor, and also an apotheosis of traditional folklore, music, theater, rural and urban landscapes. Most of these scenes exhibit a rare poetical sensibility, while a few are a bit clumsy, but still interesting.
Couple that with the drama that unfolds within the group of players, and you've got a true masterpiece. Basically what we see is a loose adaptation of Aeschylus' ancient tragedy "Oresteia" (the father Agamemnon, the adulterous mother Clytamnestra, her lover Aegisthus, the avenging daughter Elektra, the avenging son Orestes etc). In the end, the group of actors stands severely rearranged through a painful and dividing historical period, shadows of themselves in a shadow of a country. The film ends as a perfect circle just the way it began, a metaphor for life itself.
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