Theo Angelopoulos’s 1975 film The Travelling Players is a very special film. It is set in Greece and tells the story of the struggles of Greek people in the 20th century, narrated by a group of travelling players who traverse Greek history and the Greek landscape. History in this depiction is not told by “great man” but by this group of players and the masses
The travelling players witness the German occupation and the liberation struggle, the rise of the KKE Communist party and the betrayal of the communist partisans by the British. The current struggles of workers against austerity in Greece make this a perfect time to revisit this classic piece of cinema.
Angelopoulos’s cinematic style also marks the film out. The cinematography is based on long takes – a device used in monologues spoken to the camera by the players, which gives the impression that the actors are addressing the viewer directly.
Outstanding use of the long take also occurs in the group shots. The camera will follow the travelling players as they walk along the street, but gradually the street will shift in time until we find that the players have, in one take, walked backwards in history. The historical change is registered through the changing slogans used during different elections. Politics is the central focus of this film.
The Travelling Players was made during the twilight of the Greek dictatorship of the “colonels” between 1967 and 1974. It documents the suffering of a nation and is a plea for democracy made at a dark time for most Greeks.
It is sad to note that Theo Angelopoulos died early this year at the age of 76 while shooting a film in Greece – but having made films like The Travelling Players, he deserves to be remembered.
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