Film : Z (1969)
Director : Costa Gavras
Language : French
I loved Costa Gavras’ Missing and I was looking forward to watching his ‘Z’ and I was not at all disappointed. I love political thrillers, ‘All the President’s Men’, ‘Syriana’, ‘The Lives of Others’ are some of my favourites and ‘Z’ has definitely made a space for itself in my favourites list.
Based upon Vasilis Vasilikos’ novel, ‘Z’ is a dramatic and powerful account about the investigation of the assassination of a Greek politician. The film begins with a boring lecture about some agricultural policy whilst the opening credits are shown, but as soon as the lecture is over a police general quickly gives an anti-communist speech and you immediately know what’s in store for you for the rest of the movie. The scene shifts to a preparation of an anti-military, nuclear disarmament rally being planned by the opposition and being attempted to prevent by the ruling government. Yves Montand plays the prominent leftist leader referred in the movie as ‘Z’ who arrives in the city to give a speech in this rally, but as soon as his speech is over he is brutally attacked by the extremists. Well that’s only the first half hour of the movie.
In this right-winged military led country (never revealed which country) the attack is soon given a name of an accident. And when a magistrate and a photo-journalist start digging deeper into the case they reveal that the entire incident was planned by the police department itself but that’s only scratching the surface.
‘Z’ has the perfect cast; the examining magistrate played by Jean-Louis Trintignant is totally authentic, Jacques Perrin who plays the photo-journalist makes his presence felt in every scene he is featured, even though if he is shown standing somewhere in the background taking pictures. Vago and Yago were absolutely perfect as the attackers and Pierre Dux was an ideal cast for the role of General.
The pace of the film is superb; it takes its time to begin with the plot but once the attack takes place, it gets you involved with this massive conspiracy that begins to unravel very frenetically, with loads of characters introduced in every other sequence, funny dialog and confusing jumble of events. ‘Z’ sometimes gives you a feeling of a political documentary whilst sometimes it just surprisingly pulls the carpet from under your feet.
The cinematography is marvelous with the editing that gives a sense of urgency that the film requires. And what really stands out is the music that is so strange and unusual yet fits so perfectly with the film especially during the chases and the critical moments.
Made in 1969 ‘Z’ was not only relevant of it’s times but is equally relevant today. The political scenario shown in ‘Z’ was based on a true event in Greece but it can occur in any country and at any time for ‘Z’ is not just about Totalitarianism, it is also about corruption and injustice that is prevalent in every society.
The director also stated about this film ‘I made ‘Z’, first because I am Greek-born. Secondly, because I felt I would like to do something. Some people sign petitions, others go to the streets – I do something as a filmmaker.’
Towards the end the message is crystal clear, while the director’s other masterpiece Missing brought tears to my eyes towards the end, the end of ‘Z’ made me choke. The satire is classic and reminded me of the end of ‘Jaane bhi do Yaaron’ though ‘Z’ was made ages before the latter.