Sunday, September 7, 2008

Z (Costa-Gavras, 1969)

A political thriller based on an actual assassination of a Greek doctor in 1963. It’s briskly paced and well-written, and it suggests the staying power of a strong military status quo—though the language, the idiom, the actors, and the setting is all French, it’s nonetheless obviously the Greece of the colonels. There is an element of inevitability as the police prevent the peace rally from proceeding peacefully by having them kicked out of one sizeable venue and letting them meet somewhere obviously too small, so that people left outside are easy targets for right-wind counter-demonstrators and police. Things degenerate quickly, with savage beatings, and then cover-ups and suborning witnesses. Gradually the young judge entrusted with investigating the death of the peace movement leader discovers links between the police and the “accident,” and with the help of a young photographer and stubborn witnesses, he indicts the entire police/army leadership, right up to the general in charge. Most of the wrongdoers are either reprimanded or given brief jail sentences; most of the witnesses against them end up dead. However, only a few years later, captions at the end relate, there was a spontaneous movement that resulted in the collapse of the military regime and the resoration of democracy. As the wife and then the widow of the martyred doctor, Irene Papas has very little to say. She reacts tragically, humanizes the terrible events through flashback montage, and looks Greek.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

What's the name of the movie?

Spoilers: Notes on a life at the movies said...

Whoops! The title field was empty, but now I've fixed it, thanks.