fri 30/10/2020

DVD: The Theo Angelopoulos Collection Volume 1 | reviews, news & interviews

DVD: The Theo Angelopoulos Collection Volume 1

DVD: The Theo Angelopoulos Collection Volume 1

Four landmark films collected

'The Travelling Players': soon to attempt another run-through of 'Golfo and the Shepherdess'

There’s a scene in Theo Angelopoulos’s The Travelling Players where those gathered in a square hear “the wind of freedom is blowing” being sung. The wartime Nazi occupation is over. Greek, Russian and American flags are aloft. A bomb goes off. In asking whose freedom this was, Angelopoulos had chosen his moment carefully. The film was released in 1975, a year after Greece held its first election since the Colonels took power with American backing in 1967.

There’s a scene in Theo Angelopoulos’s The Travelling Players where those gathered in a square hear “the wind of freedom is blowing” being sung. The wartime Nazi occupation is over. Greek, Russian and American flags are aloft. A bomb goes off. In asking whose freedom this was, Angelopoulos had chosen his moment carefully. The film was released in 1975, a year after Greece held its first election since the Colonels took power with American backing in 1967.

Angelopoulos made his first film in 1968, just after the coup d’état had installed the quasi-fascist regime. A new four-DVD box set collects 1970's The Reconstruction, 1972’s Days of ’36, The Travelling Players and 1977’s The Hunters. Greece isn’t far from the news right now, and the crash course Angelopoulos’s films provide in the country’s turbulent recent history is a potent reminder that instability was never far.

Theo Angelopoulos Collection Vol 1It’s also a reminder that Angelopoulos is a unique director, whose films have an instantly recognisable style. Fast cutting was anathema and the almost four-hour The Travelling Players has 80 shots. His camera follows rather than leads. Without intruding, it observes, capturing what's going on. The closest comparisons are some of the long scenes in Tarkovsky’s The Stalker (which was four years in the future when The Travelling Players was released). There are hardly any close-ups. No one actor leads. Angelopoulos’s films feel more Eastern European than Mediterranean. Partly that’s a result of his style evolving under a repressive, censorious regime, but also because his films look into Greece’s interior, both socially and geographically. Familiar coastlines or island paradises aren't his concern. Although lacking the playfulness, Angelopoulos’s outlook is closer to Miloš Forman’s in The Fireman’s Ball than outside ideas of what Greece ought to be on film.

Allusion was neccesary to get his early films past the regime – both The Reconstruction and Days of ’36 centre on crimes that are metaphors for what was happening to Greece. The Travelling Players echoes the story of Orestes and the wandering band of actors only have one play, the late-19th-century romantic drama Golfo and the Shepherdess. Each time they try to perform the play, it gets cut short. Each time it’s cut short, they lose one of their number. Just as Greeks were losing their rights. But knowing the allusions, the metaphors and the references isn’t necessary. These languorous yet charged films enthral.

Angelopoulos's camera follows rather than leads. There are hardly any close-ups

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