The story begins as an old fashioned circus parade is traveling through the countryside. In the back of the parade is a simple clown dressed in white almost like a harlequin, riding atop a donkey. There are no words, just music and pantomime like action, giving the film the feel of an old time Punch and Judy show. The circus is inhabited by typical characters, all seeming to have hardship in their lives. And at the top of the food-chain is Magnus, the grand puppeteer, performing his diabolical shows where he strings up human beings as living marionettes and controls their every move. In this bizarre world comes the clown, a character of good will. He helps each person with their individual hardships, taking their place and carrying their burdens for them. And from his goodness he gains followers; a wondering batch of misfits who cannot help but be moved by the clowns good heart. But the final encounter is with Magnus, who is filled with hate. The clown takes the place of Magnus's human puppets and allows himself to be strung up and killed. Magnus falls into remorse, trying to reanimate the clown like a marionette. But the clown's work goes on in the form of his followers, who have learned the lesson to be loving and helpful and good. Finally Magnus finds himself so moved that he smears his face with clown white greasepaint. When the circus moves on and the many colorful carriages pass into the countryside yet again, there in the back is the clown on a donkey. It is Christ resurrected, possibly as Magnus reborn to replace him and continue his good deeds.
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