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 flawed masterpiece from Angelopoulos, the first of a number of great films of his you can pick at if you want.
First and foremost, it is a technical achievement; almost 4 hours and only about 80 cuts! It goes against all we've gotten used to in film story-telling, and does it brilliantly.
The story follows a troupe of actors back and forth through the years 1939 to 1952. They're thrown about by the violent, sometimes absurd tides of Greek history, with victory over the Nazi's giving way to the rise of local fascists at home.
The film is very Brechtian and distanced in style. We hardly get to know the characters at all, despite the running time. It's much more interested in the great tides of politics and time than individuals - which is both its strength and its weakness. I was always interested, sometimes horrified, but rarely touched emotionally. Also, some of the good/bad of the politics felt simplistic.
That said, despite its length, I will re-watch it. I suspect I'll appreciate the amazing scope of it's vision and the bravery of it's style even more without expecting to get caught up in the people in a conventional way.
If you have the chance, get ahold of the 'New Star' DVD, which was only in release a short time. The transfer was supervised and approved by Angelopoulos, and certainly looks wildly better than the commonly found VHS tape.
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