The Travelling Players (1975)

Weaving together recent Greek history and the wanderings of a travelling theatre troupe, Theo Angelopoulos’ four-hour epic posited a new form of storytelling.

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Film details

Alternative titles

  • O Thiassos Original Greek
  • Le Voyage des comédiens Alternative French

Introduction

“The Travelling Players may be thought of as a meditation with three dimensions: history, myth and aesthetics. The viewer is constantly invited to alternate between emotional engagement and intellectual analysis.”
Dan Georgakas, The Last Modernist: The Films of Theo Angelopoulos, 1997

Made under the watchful eyes of the last days of the Greek military junta, Theo Angelopoulos’s formally and thematically ambitious masterpiece follows an acting troupe in the war-torn years between 1939 and 1952 as they attempt to stage a production of the pastoral play Golfo the Shepherdess.

Highly stylised in its pageant-like movement through history, encompassing the Metaxas dictatorship, World War II and the Greek Civil War, the film is notable for its protracted and elaborately choreographed tracking shots. Reminiscent of the technique of filmmakers such as Max Ophuls and the Hungarian director Miklós Jancsó, these labyrinthine long takes wind tortuously around the actors and action, sometimes switching historical era within the same shot. The result is a radical and challenging chronicle of a nation’s recent history.

These same travelling players are encountered on the road by two vagrant children in search of their father in Angelopoulos’s later classic, Landscape in the Mist (1988).

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