Theo Angelopoulos’s films at GOMA

We cannot escape history
       One of the Hunters
       in The Hunting Party

Publisher’s note: Meres Tou ’36 (Days of 36) and other films on Greece currently showing at GOMA at South Bank Brisbane.

Over the weekend of 16-17 April, I saw  Angelopoulos’s films: O Thiassos (The Travelling Players) 1974-75 and I Kynighi (The Hunters). The former, a masterpiece of four hours, and the latter, a more staged stylized film.

Together, the three films tell  the terrible history Greek people had to face before, during and after World War II. Why did such a progressive people end up with such lousy right-wing governments?

Clearly a socialist, Angelopoulos portrays hard choices taken by ordinary people during this period. In the Travelling Players, reality keeps interfering in the plays put on by a small company of actors. Angelopoulos employs beautiful music and dance (even the fascists can trip the light fantastic) staged with references to Greek theatre and ancient myth.

In The Hunters, Angelopoulos shows how, if you do not face up to your past, you keep repeating it. Partisans agree to bury the body of their leader, a Che-like figure, without telling anyone what happened.  This pact comes back to haunt them. At least South Africa had reconciliation, not that it helped them much.

Before he died in a car accident not long ago Angelopoulos was planning on making a film about the financial crisis. This would have been interesting because I doubt filmmakers today would get away with what Angelopoulos did in the 1970s. Pressure to conform in the Arts is so much stronger now.

Please find synopses and links provided by GOMA below. More of Angelopoulos films are coming up, see the GOMA website for details.

For those that missed these great films there are DVDs available at GOMA.

Ian Curr
18 April 2016



O Thiassos (The Travelling Players)
Everything is shown through the perspective of simple people – the same people who have to bear the effects of these events. The film is a popular epic much more than an analysis of recent Greek history… the story covers the period between the overt dictatorship of a general to the veiled dictatorship of a field marshal, who was viewed by many Greeks, exhausted by all the catastrophes they had experienced before, as a liberator.

The Travelling Players recounts episodes of Greek history between 1939-52, including the declaration of World War II, occupation by Nazi forces, liberation, dictatorship, and the polarising struggle between monarchists, centrists and the country’s left-wing and Communist Party that led to the Greek Civil War.

Made prior to the restoration of democracy, Angelopoulos’s film couples political histories with the myth of Atreides, creating a Brechtian world where one oppressive model of governance replaces another. The film follows an itinerant company of actors as they travel throughout history performing the19th century pastoral melodrama, Golfo, the Shepherdess.

Continually interrupted by the events they are drawn into, the performance is never finished and their failure takes on symbolic significance for a country trying to reconcile its past.

With The Travelling Players, Angelopoulos established his distinct and austere approach to visual storytelling. The camera tracks and shifts focus imperceptibly through history and space, using only 80 carefully composed sequence shots during its 222 minute duration.

Days of 36

The dictatorship is embodied in the formal structure of the film. Imposed silence was one of the conditions under which we worked. The film is… made in such a way that the spectator realizes that censorship is involved.

Days of ’36 is a political thriller that unfolds after a Conservative Member of Parliament is taken hostage at a prison.

Based on real events, it begins with the murder of a trade unionist at a public rally and the imprisonment of a former police informant. Proclaiming his innocence, Sofianos is visited by a government official (and former lover) who he takes hostage in an attempt to secure his release.

The event sparks a crisis for the authorities and their indecision with how best to deal with the situation reflects a sense of political uncertainty: if the government gives into Sofianos’s demands, it faces losing the support of the ruling Democratic Party, while the Conservatives threaten to vote against the government if he is not immediately released.

Set on the eve of General Ioannis Metaxas’s dictatorship of Greece from 1936 and made midway through the country’s military junta from 1967–74 , Angelopoulos’s film is a critique of repressive attitudes, accusing both past and incumbent dictators of the same violent enforcement of social order.

The Hunters
This is a terribly sad film, an unpleasant film that rejects all relief stemming from easy hopes. It is a film about the present we live in, about how things seem to stay the same as if nothing had happened despite all the political changes taking place around us.

New Year’s Eve, 1976: After discovering the body of a partisan fighter during a hunting trip, a group of Greece’s social elite are forced to consider the entrenched factionalism that led to the country’s Civil War.

For Angelopoulos, the hunting party represents ‘the composite conscience of a certain generation and certain social class’ and he puts their guilt on trial when the body is transported back to their hotel and an inquest takes place. The presence of the body from 1949 – once frozen but now with a seemingly fresh wound – prompts each member to testify to their own culpability in undermining the democratic process in Greece.

‘We cannot escape history,’ one recalls as they face a series of tableaux re-creating their actions.

Made in the wake of the 1975 Greek Junta Trials in which military leaders were tried for treason and insurrection, The Hunters is Angelopoulos’s indictment of Greece’s post-war autocratic government and those responsible for social and political upheaval.


2 thoughts on “Theo Angelopoulos’s films at GOMA

  1. Alex Kondos Memorial Lecture says:

    A Brief Discussion of Theo Angelopoulos Visual Poetics: Political Cinema and Existential Concerns by Professor Vrasidas Karalis, University of Sydney

    7.30pm, Thursday 19 May 2016
    Acropolis Room, Brisbane Greek Club, 29 Edmondstone Street, South Brisbane

    Vrasidas Karalis holds the Sir Nicholas Laurantos Chair in Modern Greek Studies and Byzantine at the University of Sydney. He has published on Hannah Arendt, Martin Heidegger, Cornelius Castoriadis, Theo Angelopoulos, Andrey Tarkovsky, Alfred Hitchcock, European Cinema and Global Cinemas. His latest publications include A History of Greek Cinema (2012) and the forthcoming second volume Realism on Postwar Greek Cinema (I.B. Tauris 2016). He has also published two volumes of oral history, Recollections of Mr Manoly Lascaris (2007) and The Demons of Athens (2014). He has translated Patrick White’s Voss (1996) and The Vivisector (2002) into Greek and many Greek poets into English, amongst them, Andreas Angelakis, Nikos Kazouros, Kiki Demoula and Odysseas Elytis.

    Presented by the Greek Orthodox Community of St. George Brisbane and the Greek Film Society of Brisbane in conjunction with the Theo Angelopoulos retrospective at the Australian Cinémathèque (GOMA).

  2. Der Kaufmann von Venedig (The Merchant of Venice) ... says:

    This rare 35mmscreening will feature live musical accompaniment from David Bailey on the Gallery’s 1929Wurlitzer Organ.The Bard has his voice muted in this silent adaptation of The Merchant of Venice. The plot finds Shylock (here named Mordecai), a Jewish merchant who has long been tormented by the citizens of Venice, demanding a mortal fee for the breach of a contract by one of his persecutors.

    The film was produced in the Weimar Republic in 1923 and the beautiful expressionist stylings of the era are on full display. Sumptuous cinematography, scores of extras and location shooting in Venice combine to lend grandeur to the film’s visuals.

    Felner’s adaptation adopts a loose approach to the original text – mixing it in with those folktales that inspired Shakespeare – shifting primary attention away from Shylock and on to the romance between a pair of young lovers, while also adding several new characters. It is an absorbing take on the play and a rare opportunity to see silent screen Shakespeare.

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