Reviewer's Rating 3 out of 5   User Rating 5 out of 5
The Travelling Players (O Thiassos) (1976)

Hailed as a masterpiece when it was first released in the UK in 1976, this magisterial four-hour epic has rarely been seen since. Perhaps that's because its austere narrative, about a troupe of itinerant theatre actors wandering through Greece during the Nazi invasion, and its aftermath, is so deliberately diffuse that it becomes more of an endurance test than a pleasure.


Without bending to the demands of conventional dramatic narrative, director Theo Angelopoulos offers an epic vision of Greek history. He uses this theatre troupe's attempts to stage a production of folk drama Golfo The Shepherdess as the focus, then spins off to deal with the Nazi occupation, the ensuing post-war infighting between monarchists and Marxists, and a general sense of the dangers of totalitarianism.

Shooting in long takes, eschewing close ups in favour of moving his camera through a series of beautifully choreographed dances through space while the action takes place around - rather than in front of - it, Angelopoulos delivers a fractured film that's more confusing than emotionally involving.


Even the characters are kept distant. Nameless, quiet and barely even given identities, the travelling players are little more than ciphers - the site on which history's upheavals can be traced. Hardly speaking to one another, or anyone else, they occasionally deliver direct-to-camera monologues, mixing political invective with Greek history and personal angst, in a vague attempt to give this sprawling film some kind of structure.

Like Brecht's plays - in which the aim is not to make the audience identify with the action, but rather to create awareness of the underlying political argument - The Travelling Players is a cold and distant film, unrelenting in its attempt to depict the swirling vortex of history in process.

Inaccessible and imposing, it may be a masterpiece, but it's a hard one to like.

In Greek with English subtitles

End Credits

Director: Theo Angelopoulos

Writer: Theo Angelopoulos

Stars: Eva Kotamanidou, Aliki Georgouli, Stratos Pahis, Maria Vassiliou

Genre: Drama, World Cinema

Length: 230 minutes

Original: 1976

Cinema: 07 November 2003

Country: USA

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