155 - The Travelling Players (1975)
Lets get something out there right away. At 230 minutes this is one of the more difficult films of the top 200. It's definitely not for an early segment of your journey. You'll get depressed and disillusioned as this certainly sits in the hard work category.
To sit in the top 200 films of all time many people must think very highly of the film, even considering it to be a masterpiece. I can see how you might arrive at the conclusion.
The length is not the main problem. The story is not clearly defined, the characters are not at all accessible and central thrust of the film is something that very few will care about, unless you're into Greek political history. And yes, it's a shade under four hours.
The story is told through the activities of a theatrical troupe and is basically about the battle between the right and left in Greece after the second world war. As the troupe try to perform a play they are interrupted by local events.
Now stir into the mix that the director wanted a very leisurely or studied approach so many takes are five minutes long. The camera stays still and pans with the actors. It slows the whole thing down to an almost funereal pace, but also injects a sense of solemnity and seriousness into the proceedings. This film makes Stalker seem quick.
An example at the 155 minute mark is the eight minute single shot of the women after she has been raped and dumped by a river. She fastens her red coat, folds her arms and begins a long rousing speech straight to camera. And there I sat, completely absorbed. The next shot is a mere three minutes.
The use of a troupe means that there are rarely many people simultaneously on screen and this gives a film an unusual intimacy and tenderness.
What to think of all this?
The film is strangely compelling, but only to someone who has a vested interest. If you're a student of great movies it's a curio that needs to be experienced. Maybe you have a serious interest in 20th Century Greek political history. At the 130 minute mark I found that I had become absorbed in the overall troupe and the plight of some of the characters.
I am glad I've seen this small epic, but cannot recommend it Most won't make it even 60 minutes, in the knowledge that there's still another three hours to go. If ever you need to be I the right mood to see a long film, this is it.